|Jaren Hall didn't finish the game, but still gets credit for his first win as a starting quarterback (Colter Peterson, Deseret News)|
The BYU Cougars continue to experience a revolving door at the quarterback position, but for the moment, it isn't hurting the product on the field. Both Jaren Hall and Baylor Romney played one half at quarterback for BYU Saturday night against the Utah State Aggies. Each QB led the team to 21 points, and the Cougars went home 42-14 winners.
The BYU defense started the game forcing a three and out, thanks to a diving tip by Chaz Ah You on first down, and Khyiris Tonga penetrating the backfield to make a stop for no gain on 3rd and 1.
The Cougar offense started its first series from its own seven-yard line following the Utah State punt. Jaren Hall made some big throws to lead BYU all the way down the field. A 28-yard fade to Talon Shumway. Two third down completions of at least 15 yards, plus a 20-yard completion on 2nd and 15. Aleva Hifo finished the 93-yard drive running the ball in from six yards out.
It looked like the 7-0 lead wouldn't hold up for long. Utah State drove down to the BYU 26-yard line, but when the Aggie ball carrier fumbled the ball Devin Kaufusi was there to recover for the Cougars.
Highlighted by a 36-yard pass from Hall to Dax Milne, BYU quickly moved to the Utah State six-yard line. On the very next play, the Cougars gave the ball back to Utah State with a fumble of their own.
On the ensuing drive, Utah State's quarterback completed five passes for 84 yards on the Aggie's seven-play 86-yard drive to help tie the game at seven.
BYU picked up a couple of first downs before its next drive stalled and punted the ball back to Utah State with 12:59 to play in the second quarter.
Utah State's quarterback had not thrown an incomplete pass since Ah You tipped his first pass of the game. On the third play of the drive, the Aggie quarterback didn't see BYU linebacker Kavika Fonua, and the pass was intercepted. Fonua returned the ball 16 yards to the Utah State 16.
It took one play for Hall to run in for BYU's second touchdown and a 14-7 lead.
Both teams punted once before Utah State was driving again. The Aggies were nearly in scoring position at the BYU 24-yard line, but Peyton Wilgar got in the way of Utah State's pass for the second interception of the night.
The Cougar offense continued to roll. On 2nd and Goal from the seven-yard line, Hall completed a pass to Matt Bushman for a touchdown. After the play, however, officials ruled Utah State had called timeout before the play. On video replay, there was no audible whistle until the well after the ball had been snapped. Following the time out, Hall ran the ball in for a touchdown. That gave BYU a 21-7 lead with 2:33 to play in the half.
While the phantom timeout didn't cost BYU on the scoreboard, it was still costly. Hall took a big hit just as he crossed the goal line. He missed the rest of the game with a concussion. Hall finished the game completing 12 of 16 passes for 214 yards, and had seven rushes for 54 yards with two touchdowns.
Utah State was able to score another touchdown with 33 seconds left in the half to cut the deficit to seven, 21-14.
The events to close the first half made a strong case that momentum was on the side of Utah State. The Aggies just scored a touchdown, and BYU would be without its starting quarterback the rest of the game. If momentum truly was with Utah State, BYU would have a very hard time nursing a seven-point lead for 30 minutes. It felt a little like deja vu. Two years ago, the Cougars built a 21-7 lead in Logan before starting quarterback Beau Hoge left the game with a concussion. The game quickly got away from BYU and Utah State won with ease.
Fortunately for BYU 2019 would be completely different from 2017. Romney picked up right where he left off two weeks ago against Boise State. Highlighted by a 30-yard bomb to his brother Gunner, BYU took the second half kickoff and scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Romney to Micah Simon.
The Cougar D struggled to slowdown the Utah State offense in the first half. That wasn't the case in the second half. A three and out got BYU the ball back quickly. Two completions by Romney and a 14-yard run by Lopini Katoa quickly moved the Cougar O into scoring position.
Micah Simon completed a pass on a reverse to Romney for 13 yards. Utah State was penalized for roughing the passer on the same play, which moved the ball inside the Aggie five-yard line. Two plays later, the Romney brothers connected again. This time on a one-yard touchdown throw. The lead was now 35-14.
When Utah State gained just six yards on five plays, it was crystal clear who's side momentum was favoring.
On BYU's next drive, most of the damage was done on a 24-yard pass to Katoa and a 28-yard run by Sione Finau. The Cougars reached the Aggies' 17-yard line, but for the second time of the night, BYU turned the ball over in the red zone. A fade pass on 3rd and 8 was intercepted in the end zone.
It looked like momentum had swung over to Utah State following the turnover. The Aggies drove all the way down the field. For a moment, they even scored a touchdown, but it was called back for having an ineligible receiver downfield. On 4th and Goal from the 12-yard line, Austin Lee made a big stop at the one-yard line to preserve the 21-point lead with 14:31 to play in the game.
Taking over deep in their own territory, the Cougars weren't able to move the ball very far. BYU ended up punting on 4th and 4 from the seven-yard line. Utah State went for the block, and missed the ball, but got a good hit on the BYU punter. That running into the kicker penalty gave BYU a fresh set of downs.
BYU took advantage of the Aggie mistake and displayed some killer instinct to put the game away. Romney dumped the ball off to Katoa, who used a nasty stiff arm to go 77 yards down the sideline. Three plays later, Katoa finished the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.
It was a 10-play, 99-yard drive; the second 90+ yard drive of the game for BYU. With 9:31 to play, the Cougars led 42-14.
The Cougar D continued its second half dominance of the Utah State offense and forced another punt. Unfortunately, the BYU return man dropped the punt and BYU graduate transfer Riley Burt was there to recover it for Utah State. At this point, however, positive plays for Utah State were just delaying the inevitable. Two plays later, Austin Kafentzis forced a fumble on a sack and Isaiah Kaufusi recovered it for BYU.
BYU was not able to run out the clock, so the Cougars punted the ball back to Utah State with 2:15 to play. Utah State continued to play its starters, and was trying to score one more touchdown before the game officially ended. That gave Beau Tanner the opportunity to intercept a pass. He returned it 73 yards to the Utah State 19-yard line to put an exclamation mark on the win.
Romney finished the game 10 of 16 passing for 191 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran the ball four times for 19 yards. Katoa had a nice game with 129 yards receiving (four catches) and 42 yards rushing (seven carries) with one touchdown.
The 28-point victory was reminiscent of days gone by in Cougar football. It didn't matter who was under center, BYU was going to be able to move the ball. BYU racked up 418 yards passing and 639 yards of total offense. BYU's time of possession was 35:14. In addition to Katoa's triple digits in receiving yards, two other Cougars had over 60 yards and two more had over 40 yards. Despite yielding over 500 yards of total offense to the Aggies, the BYU defense allowed just 14 points. They created five turnovers.
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