Cougars can't hold on in second half, fall 38-27 to Kansas in Big 12 opener

BYU football suffered its first loss of the season, falling to Kansas 38-27 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in its first face-off with a Big 12 opponent as a member of the conference on Saturday.

Tanner Wall tackling Kansas player in open fieldTanner Wall tackling Kansas player in open field

LAWRENCE, Kan. — BYU football suffered its first loss of the season, falling to Kansas 38-27 at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium in its first face-off with a Big 12 opponent as a member of the conference on Saturday.

With BYU (3-1, 0-1 Big 12) up 17-14 at the half, Kansas (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) outscored the Cougars 21-3 to start the second half, beginning with a pick-six returned 30 yards during the third quarter’s first set of downs. Despite 357 yards through the air, the Cougar offense struggled to find footing in the rushing attack, totaling just nine yards on 22 attempts.

The contest marked BYU’s fifth time playing in a first conference matchup in its history.

Momentum-swinging turnovers at the beginning of both halves stung the Cougars, as a forced fumble on BYU’s first possession was also returned for a Jayhawk touchdown.

Kedon Slovis went 30-of-51 for 357 yards and two touchdowns paired with two interceptions. The receiving trio of Chase Roberts (89 yards, five catches) Darius Lassiter (84 yards, career-high eight catches) and Isaac Rex (76 yards, career-high seven catches) breathed life into the offense. Lassiter and running back LJ Martin both recorded touchdown receptions.

Linebacker Ben Bywater led the defense with 10 tackles for a season high, including nine solo stops and one sack. AJ Vongphachanh added seven tackles (five solo) while Tanner Wall added six.

[Full recap below]

“I know we are a good team, and we haven’t played our best yet … We definitely didn’t play our best today.”

Kalani SitakeBYU head coach

First Quarter

Kansas began its opening possession with a drive to BYU’s 28-yard line before a false start penalty and two consecutive incompletions - including on 4th and 6 - left the Jayhawks empty-handed. Bywater broke up the fourth-down pass aimed to the right for intended receiver Mason Fairchild.

BYU’s first offensive possession ended quickly, as a hard hit on Parker Kingston behind the line of scrimmage jarred the ball loose, turning into a fumble scoop-and-score touchdown by Kansas’ cornerback Cobee Bryant with 10:38 remaining in the first quarter

Showing early resilience, the Cougars bounced back with a 10-play, 75-yard drive culminating when Slovis rolled to his right to thread the needle to an open Lassiter for a 7-yard touchdown pass. The senior signal-caller targeted Lassiter and Rex on multiple throws, beginning with a sling to Lassiter for nine yards and the Cougars’ opening first down. Three throws to Rex, including two straight 14-yard completions, brought BYU near red zone territory to help set up the score.

With 5:48 remaining in the opening quarter, the score was knotted at 7-7.

Kansas then drove the ball 86 yards in eight plays to go up 14-7. Daniels showcased his mobility, keeping plays alive as the Cougar defense struggled to prevent big plays. A 21-yard completion came as Daniels bought plenty of time before the toss sent the Jayhawks into BYU territory. A pitch to the right moved the ball another 21 yards to set up the 15-yard touchdown strike from Daniels to receiver Trevor Kardell in traffic with 1:37 to go in the first quarter.

The Cougars moved the ball to their own 42-yard line before the quarter ended.

Second Quarter

Facing an early 4th and 1 in their own territory, BYU converted with a rush by Martin as the freshman back remained steady and followed blockers to plunge through for two yards. Later, on 3rd and 2, a quick completion to Deion Smith and an additional 10 yards after the catch set up the Cougars in goal-to-go. Slovis then found Martin on a 10-yard screen pass as the freshman eluded defenders and followed blockers en route to his first career touchdown reception.

With 11:08 to go in the first half, the score was once again tied at 14-14.

Kansas’ next drive was stunted by a holding penalty and a single coverage pass-breakup by cornerback Kamden Garrett to force the Jayhawks’ first punt.

After a BYU three-and-out, Kansas moved the ball back into Cougar territory before a huge sack by Bywater for a loss of 12 yards forced another punt.

Kicker Will Ferrin put the Cougars on top for the first time with a 33-yard field goal and 13 seconds remaining in the half. Critical 3rd down conversions - including passes on 3rd and 8 and 3rd and 10 - extended the 68-yard drive to set up a 16-yard completion to Rex on 4th and 2 to the Kansas 24-yard line, before Ferrin knocked it through for the score.

BYU went into halftime up 17-14. The Kansas offense was held to 139 yards and accounted for seven points on the half. Entering Saturday’s contest, the Jayhawks averaged 500 yards and 37.7 points per game.

Third Quarter

On the third play of the second half, an incompletion touched by Rex and then another Kansas defender floated the ball right into the hands of Kenny Logan Jr., who returned the ball 30 yards for a pick-six to begin the half with a momentum-swinging play as the Jayhawks reclaimed a 21-17 lead just 22 seconds into the third quarter.

Daniels proved a problem on the ground for the Cougar defense, rushing for a total of 33 yards on an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to give the Jayhawks their biggest lead of the day at 28-20 with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter. A 17-yard keeper and a 17-yard pass for the signal-caller highlighted the drive.

As the BYU rushing attack continued to struggle, the offense kept to the air with a 37-yard completion down the left sideline to Keelan Marion for his first haul of the day. Facing 4th and 7 on the Kansas 34-yard line, Slovis’ throw to the opposite side was intercepted and returned to the Kansas 36-yard line.

Kansas moved the ball with ease as four straight rushes brought the Jayhawks into the red zone on BYU’s 18-yard line as the quarter closed.

Fourth Quarter

On 3rd and 5 from the BYU 13-yard line, Daniels completed a touchdown pass to Luke Grimm to extend the Jayhawk lead to 35-20.

Taking over with 13:36 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Cougars advanced the ball with a reception by Lassiter on 3rd and 9 in their own territory. After two more first downs moved the sticks, a throw to Rex was brought back with two offensive penalties on the play. Facing 3rd and 21, a pass-interference penalty gave the offense a fresh set of downs. A 20-yard haul by Lassiter set up a six-yard, jet sweep touchdown scamper to the right side by Marion, untouched into the end zone.

After lining up for a two-point conversion attempt, a BYU illegal substitution led to an extra point to cut the deficit to 35-27 with 8:02 remaining.

A series of rushes put the Jayhawks into red zone territory before the Cougar defense held up, forcing a field goal. With 1:39 to go, Kansas went ahead 38-27 in what would be the final score of the game.

Next up, BYU returns home for its first league game at Lavell Edwards stadium as a member of the Big 12 Conference. The Cougars will face Cincinnati at 8:15 p.m. MDT on Friday, Sept. 29. Watch BYU and the Bearcats on ESPN or listen live on BYU Radio SiriusXM/BYU Radio App/KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.