Cougars fall to No. 14 Oklahoma 31-24 in home finale

In its final home game of the 2023 campaign, BYU football suffered a 31-24 loss to No. 14 Oklahoma on Senior Day at Lavell Edwards Stadium.


PROVO, Utah - In its final home game of the 2023 campaign, BYU football suffered a 31-24 loss to No. 14 Oklahoma on Senior Day at Lavell Edwards Stadium.

In a back-and-forth battle, BYU (5-6, 2-6 Big 12) kept the game tied or within one score with Oklahoma (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) for the entirety of the contest. The Sooners pulled away with a fourth-quarter touchdown to make it 31-24 after forcing a Cougar turnover in BYU territory. The Sooners won the turnover battle 3-0, scoring 21 points off BYU turnovers.

“I am proud of the guys," said head coach Kalani Sitake. "Obviously that’s not the outcome I was feeling. Even from before the game, to the end, we felt like we had a shot at this. I probably say this way too many times, but we made too many mistakes, and it came down to the wire. I’m proud of the guys’ fight, and there are really no moral victories. We knew that we can play with people, and I am glad that they were able to show it on the field.”

Aidan Robbins’ 182 yards on 22 attempts was good for a BYU career-high in rushing and the most from any BYU ball carrier on the season. In Jake Retzlaff’s third start at quarterback for the Cougars, the junior went 15-of-26 for 173 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. He also rushed for 29 yards and one touchdown.

The Cougars outgained the Sooners in total offense, earning 390 yards to Oklahoma’s 368. BYU posted 217 yards on the ground as a team and went 3-for-3 on fourth down attempts.

Seven pass-catchers hauled in at least one reception, led by Kody Epps’ 90 yards on six catches. Chase Roberts registered 45 yards on two hauls, including one touchdown. Isaac Rex added a touchdown reception.

Safety Talan Alfrey led the defense with 10 total tackles (seven solo) while Max Tooley and Crew Wakley recorded seven apiece. AJ Vongphachanh and Eddie Heckard added six and five tackles, respectively. Jackson Cravens had the Cougars’ lone sack on the day.

First Quarter

Oklahoma’s opening possession began with a 20-yard completion on 3rd and 13 to the 42-yard line before the Cougar defense held on 3rd and 8 when quarterback Dillon Gabriel rolled to his left and tossed a low pass, broken up by Jakob Robinson near the marker.

Taking over on their own 13-yard line, the Cougars’ first offensive possession also went for just one first down as Robbins burst downfield through a seam to pick up 20 yards on the first play before two dropped passes led to a punt.

Taking 3:17 off the clock, the Sooners moved the ball 85 yards to score in seven plays. A long 55-yard connection with receiver Jayden Gibson set up a short touchdown pass to make it 7-0 with 8:04 to go in the first quarter.

BYU bounced back with a 10-play, 75-yard drive culminating when Retzlaff found an open Roberts on the right side for a 23-yard touchdown pass on 4th and 1. Roberts made the grab near the 7-yard line and stopped briefly to let a defender fly by before charging across the goal line for his fifth receiving touchdown of the year. The drive included two Retzlaff keepers for 12 and 11 yards, along with two completions to Kody Epps for 12 and 13 yards.

Oklahoma’s next drive was cut short after moving the sticks once. Lined up to punt at 4th and 7, the Sooners faked a punt and completed a 21-yard pass, but a pass interference in the process brought the play back. With the raucous ROC to its back, Oklahoma committed a false start move back to 4th and 27 before finally punting.

On the punt return, Parker Kingston rolled to his left and eluded would-be-tacklers for a career-long, 31-yard return to set up the Cougars in plus territory at the 43-yard line. The momentum quickly reversed as the ensuing play was a bobbled handoff, giving possession right back to the Sooners as the quarter neared its close.

Second Quarter

In plus territory, the Sooners moved quick with a series of short-yardage rushes set up a 27-yard scoring strike by Gabriel to open receiver Jayden Gibson in the back of the end zone, putting Oklahoma up 14-7 with 13:06 to go in the half.

The Cougars responded with a 10-play, 75-yard drive, capped when Retzlaff dropped in a 2-yard touchdown pass to Rex. Early in the possession, the signal-caller found an open Epps to the right as the receiver zipped 21 yards down the right side to the Sooner 38-yard line. Retzlaff then found Roberts on an over-the-shoulder catch for 22-yards to put the Cougars in red-zone territory. Retzlaff scampered for seven and five yards to set up the short-yardage score to tie things up at 14-14 with 7:49 to go in the half.

Next, a pair of defensive pass interference penalties brought Oklahoma to the BYU 38-yard line before Cravens and the BYU defensive backfield combined for a 9-yard sack. Holding Oklahoma to 3rd and 12, Gabriel then found Drake Stoops for a 24-yard completion. With the Sooners in goal-to-go at the 5-yard line, the Cougars held after Crew Wakley broke up a would-be touchdown to force a 23-yard field goal. With 2:43 left in the half, the Sooners went up 17-14.

After an errant Oklahoma kickoff sailed out of bounds, BYU took over at their own 35-yard line. Facing 4th and 2 in negative territory, the Cougars converted as Retzlaff fired a dart to Rex for a pickup of 13 yards. Then, at 3rd and 10 from the Oklahoma 44-yard line, the offensive line gave Retzlaff plenty of time to throw to Darius Lassiter for a gain of 18. The drive sputtered after a pair of backward passes went incomplete to force a loss of nine yards. Kicker Will Ferrin then knocked through a career-long, 49-yard field goal to make it 17-17 heading into the locker room.

Third Quarter

Beginning on offense to start the half, Robbins blew past defenders for rushes of seven and 13 yards before the Cougars were forced to punt. Rehkow booted it 43 yards to bottle up the Sooners deep at their own 9-yard line.

Stuffs by the Cougar defensive front forced a three-and-out. BYU’s next drive was stalled from an illegal snap and led to a punt right back. Next, the Sooners only went for four yards as Tyler Batty earned an open lane to force a quarterback hurry and incomplete pass and an ensuing punt.

Robbins broke loose for a 25-yard gain to kickstart a Cougar drive that included rushes of 11 yards from Retzlaff and another 22 by Robbins to set up 1st and goal at the 2-yard line. Retzlaff then threw a short pass intended for Epps, but was intercepted by Oklahoma’s Billy Bowman, who returned the ball 100 yards for a pick-six.

With 5:55 to go in the third quarter, BYU trailed 24-17.

BYU bounced right back, piecing together an efficient eight-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to knot the score again at 24-24 with 1:19 to go in the third quarter. Retzlaff capped the drive with a designed quarterback keeper as he lunged for the score. Robbins continued to assert dominance in the rushing attack as he opened the drive with rushes of 14 and 18 yards. A critical 4th-and-2 pass for 26 yards up the middle to Epps kept the drive alive, setting up the goal-to-go scenario.

Oklahoma then strung together large rushing gains of 29 and 13 yards to close the quarter at the BYU 39-yard line.

Fourth Quarter

Early in the quarter, Robinson claimed his third pass breakup to force 3rd and 8. A false start penalty backed up the Sooners to the BYU 29-yard line before a 16-yard pickup to receiver Jalil Farooq. The Cougar defense held up, forcing a 29-yard field goal that hooked to the left as the score remained tied at 24-24 with 12:20 left in the game.

The Cougars’ next possession was curbed by a fumble in negative territory as Retzlaff was strip-sacked for a loss of 12 and the ball came loose for Oklahoma’s recovery on the BYU 25-yard line.

The Sooners wasted no time getting back on top, marching to the end zone on three plays, with Gavin Sawchuk breaking tackles to will himself to a 16-yard touchdown rush as Oklahoma went up 31-24 with 7:57 remaining.

In what would be BYU’s final possession, a series of false starts by the Cougar offense moved the ball backward to a 3rd-and-17 situation from the BYU 18-yard line. A 10-yard rush by Robbins wasn’t enough as Rehkow then punted for 42 yards with 5:08 to go.

Oklahoma remained steady to keep control and move the sticks two times before eventually kneeling to run out the clock.Next, BYU will travel to Oklahoma State for a third all-time meeting, with the last dating back to the 1976 Tangerine Bowl. The Cougars and Cowboys will match up at Boone Pickens Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 25. Kickoff time and broadcast details have not yet been announced. Fans can listen live on BYU Radio.