Virginia played well in stretches against BYU, but Taysom Hill and the 23rd-ranked Cougars defeated the Hoos 41-33 in Provo.
Though the Cavalier front four bothered Hill, he was elusive behind the line of scrimmage far too often, and escaped to run for 72 yards on 17 carries. He passed for 2 TDS and run for another. BYU's second half adjustments kept the defense off-balance, leading to two third-quarter touchdowns that were too much for UVA to come back from. Last year's rain-soaked win was a miracle, and there wouldn't be another this year.
Ultimately, the factors that led to a near-upset of UCLA and a big win over Louisville just weren't there today. Jon Tenuta's defense thrives on big plays, as the team's 13 takeaways entering the game ranked best in the nation. However, the unit failed to force one against BYU. Despite some nice returns from Darius Jennings, BYU dominated the field position game. BYU punter Scott Arellano kicked some boomers, and the Wahoo return coverage team was porous. And UVA committed a few too many careless penalties (though the Cougars had issues in this department as well).
Virginia's start was good as fans could have possibly hoped for. Jennings returned the opening kickoff just short of midfield, then drew a pass interference penalty on the ensuing play. Next, Greyson Lambert kept the ball and ran 37 yards to the BYU 1 yard line, before punching it in 2 plays later. BYU went 3 and out, and it was clear that Virginia was the best team in college football, maybe ever.
But BYU chipped away, tying the game at 10 in the second quarter on a Hill TD pass; a barrage of field goals sent UVA into the locker room with a 16-13 lead. Though leading on the road against a ranked team was nice, it was clear that more points were left on the board. The Hoos were set to try for a touchdown on 4th and goal on the 1 at the start of the second quarter, but a false start penalty forced a field goal try instead; the team failed again to punch it in before halftime, when a 3rd-and-5 run from the BYU 6 yard line came up short. (The play call was a rough end to a well-called first half for Steve Fairchild.)
Things fell apart after halftime, as BYU notched 2 quick scores to take the lead, and Greyson Lambert, who had been valiantly hanging in despite taking hits all game, finally went down with an injury. UVA did threaten a late comeback, scoring on a Khalek Shepherd run to cut the lead to 8. But Adam Hine took the next kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, without being touched, extending the lead to 15. Virginia scored again with under 2 minutes remaining (making some gamblers happy...) on a pretty 98 yard, 3:30 minute touchdown drive led by Matt Johns, but failed to recover an onsides kick to end the ballgame.
UVA actually dominated the stat book, picking up 35 first downs to BYU's 16, and amassing 519 total yards to BYU's 322. But a better stat than total yards is yards-per-play, which looked a lot closer - UVA's yardage came on 102 plays (5.1 YPP), while BYU ran 60 (5.5 YPP). UVA also more than doubled the Cougars in time of possession. It's great that Lambert/Johns outpassed Taysom Hill 327-187, but Hill's yardage came on 23 passes, while the Hoos threw 58. The problem: UVA missed some big opportunities, while BYU made their plays count.
There were some troubling things today. Dominating total yardage but still managing to lose has been a theme of Virginia football for a couple years now, so it's frustrating to see it pop up again. The defense's effort was valiant, but they did seem to tire, uncharacteristically missing tackles and failing to pressure Hill late in the game. Greyson Lambert played great, but took an absolute beating, leading to his eventual removal from the game.
On the bright side, before his injury Lambert played his best game yet. He took hits because he was comfortable doing so, waiting in the pocket to find an open man. Playing on the road at BYU is probably the toughest game left on the schedule before the team's visit to Tallahassee, and the Hoos hung in until the final minutes despite not playing their best game. A loss is a loss. But I don't think many Wahoo fans would have expected a win today, especially before the season. With a final OOC test and then seven more ACC games looming, UVA is already 1-0 in conference and, at 2-2, 1/3 of the way to a bowl.
UVA returns to action next week in Charlottesville against Kent State. We'll have plenty more on the BYU loss and next week's game right here at STL.