ARLINGTON, Texas — Only paying attention to the stats for the first half of the BYU-TCU game, it would appear to most that the game should have been much closer than the 28-10 lead that the Frogs took into the locker room.
While the Cougar defense played well for stretches of the first half, big plays and missed assignments cost them. But the offensive issues led to the big lead. TCU scored all of its points in 2:48 of actual game time and used a physical defense to stymie the Cougar offense.
Riley Nelson was essentially ineffective in the passing game, completing only 40 percent of his passes in the first half and throwing two interceptions, including an ill-advised pick in the end zone as BYU was driving to potentially close the gap to 21-17.
Despite running more total plays than TCU (46-35) and having more total yards and more time of possession, the main reason for TCU’s lead was the two interceptions thrown by Nelson.
Any hope of a comeback similar to the Utah State game of a couple weeks ago quickly disappeared with the offense again ineffective and another special teams error on a punt led to another TCU scoring drive of less than two minutes.
After every special teams issue, the commentators pointed out that the offense hadn’t had a drive of three plays and out since Nelson took over the starting job.
One bright spot that gave BYU the momentum was J.D. Falslev’s 67-yard punt return for a touchdown, to cut the TCU lead to 15 at 35-20. It was the first punt return score since 2006 and also marks the first time in 15 years that the Cougars have both a kickoff return and a punt return for a touchdown in the same season.
The second half started out well for the Cougars, who ended the game by gaining more total yards, passing yards, rushing yards and first downs then the Horned Frogs did, but they never got fully back in the game due to the turnovers and special teams issues.
Any momentum that the Cougars had gained was lost when Nelson turned over the ball for the third time of the game early in the fourth quarter with the Cougars again driving for a possible score.
TCU then showed that it is capable of taking time off the clock instead of scoring quickly as it closed the door on the Cougars with a field goal to move the score to 38-28.
Landon Walters is a history and political science major currently studying at Salt Lake Community College. He is an avid sports fan and loves writing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org