PROVO — BYU’s defense gave up just one scoring drive Saturday.

The Cougars held their opponent, Northern Illinois, to 204 total offensive yards and just 3 of 14 on third down.

It wasn’t enough, though, as the Huskies walked out of LaVell Edwards Stadium with a 7-6 win where offensive efficiency was at a premium.

When BYU last played against Hawaii two weeks ago, the Cougar defense had four sacks and forced a pair of turnovers in a 49-23 win.

On Saturday, Northern Illinois — which allowed BYU to post 301 total offensive yards — had more impactful plays on defense. The Huskies finished with five sacks, compared to two for BYU. NIU had eight tackles for loss to the Cougars’ six. And in the turnover department, the Huskies had one, BYU none.

BYU defenders Sione Takitaki and Corbin Kaufusi emphasized the Cougars would have benefitted greatly from forcing a turnover in the defensive battle.

“We knew what they were going to do when they came out. I wish we would have gotten some picks or forced fumbles to really change the game. I thought we played hard,” Takitaki said.

Northern Illinois took the lead for good with a 10-play, 65-yard touchdown drive on the opening possession of the second half. On the drive, the Huskies benefitted from a 26-yard pass play to move them to the BYU 25, then found success running the ball, including four straight runs from back Tre Harbison that netted 22 yards and gave NIU the ball on the Cougars’ 3-yard line. Quarterback Marcus Childers capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, and the ensuing extra point proved crucial in the one-point game.

“That one touchdown drive, we made a lot of mistakes on it. Technique-wise we weren’t in the right spots and had some miscommunication,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said.

Kaufusi saw a momentary lull from the Cougar defense that led to the lone touchdown of the day.

“We let them get after us, and we were on our heels a little bit. We’ve got to be better at coming out of the half,” he said.

Despite that score, the BYU defense routinely kept the Huskies offense corralled, holding NIU to five plays or fewer on 11 of its 13 drives. That gave Sitake the confidence to rely on his defense when BYU faced a fourth-and-4 at its own 46 with three minutes to play and still possessing three timeouts.

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Source:: Deseret News – Sports News


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BYU’s nondescript defense keeps Cougars in game, but game-changing plays lacking vs. No. Illinois

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