For those of you who are first-time readers, welcome! Here is a link explaining my process of how I recap BYU games while paying respect to the rich historical tradition of the BYU Cougars I love.
Game 5 View From the Midwest – BYU 38 Utah State 26
-Luke Staley-Tyler Allgeier Rusher of the Game: Christopher Brooks. With the running game shutdown in the first half, BYU needed a big second half out of Brooks and company toting the rock. They delivered with Brooks leading the way. He had 11 carries for 90 yards, all of those yards in the second half, and a touchdown. Brooks had a 34-yard run that saw him stiffing arming the defense ala Marshawn Lynch in what is the Harvey Unga- Jamaal Williams Run of the Game. BYU will need Brooks (and Davis and Katoa) to get on track early against Notre Dame in Las Vegas on October 8th.
-Austin Collie Receivers of the Game: Kody Epps and Keanu Hill. Epps was the leading receiver for BYU in this game. He had 5 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Epps was heavily relied on with Puka Nacua and Chase Roberts both still being out with injury. The freshman from Los Angeles made the most of his shot and led the way for the Cougars.
Keanu Hill also had a good game and is quickly emerging as Jaren Hall’s number one receiver of this season. Hill had two catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. On the year Hill has 16 catches for 329 yards and four touchdowns.
-LaVell Edwards Calls of the Game: Kalani Sitake is a good coach. With so much going wrong for BYU in the first half, I’ll admit, I had my doubts about how the Cougs would perform in the second half. The defense was good at forcing turnovers but was knocked on their heels by the up-tempo offense of the Aggies. The offensive line was atrocious. They gave up sacks and had the running game have 7 carries for -21 (yes, negative) yards.
This team went to the locker room and didn’t come back out. The BYU Cougars who came back out are the ones that can compete against anybody and they played like it. After the first touchdown of the second half by Erickson, BYU went for an onside kick. They didn’t get it but this sent a strong message to the entire team. Coach Sitake with this call told the offense that they were going to be aggressive and continue to attack Utah State. He told the special teams that they were going to keep being called upon to make game-changing plays. And he told the defense that he had faith in their ability to stop Utah State and get off the field on third down.
The team rewarded Coach Sitake’s faith in them with the defense allowing only three points while the game was still up for grabs before allowing a late six points in garbage time and the offense came out and scored three touchdowns, and most importantly neither side of the ball gave Utah State any opportunities and made them work to earn them.
The Cougars took care of the football too. They have had no turnovers since the opener against USF, marking the first time since 1972 that BYU has gone three games in a row in the same season without a turnover. Also in the Kalani Sitake Era BYU is 12-0 at home and 25-2 overall when they don’t turn the football over and are 20-0 when scoring over 30 points. These two starts are very indicative of the culture Coach Sitake has built at BYU. When you take care of the ball and score consistently you will win a lot of games.
-Van Noy Hit of the Game: John Nelson and the BYU defense. Nelson has quickly become BYU’s best pass rusher. He leads the Cougar defense with two sacks and three tackles for a loss on the year and had a career-high of six tackles against USU including a tackle for a loss and batted a pass that Max Tooley picked off. He led the way for the defense to force three turnovers, have eight passes broken up, five tackles for a loss, and a total of 97 tackles to beat the Aggies.
-Fred Warner Defensive Player of the Game: Max Tooley. Tooley is easily the Cougars’ best defensive player. In addition to three tackles, a sack, and a tackle for a loss, Tooley had his second pick-six of the season my Kai Nacua Pick of the Game. You can be assured that Drew Pyne will know where Max Tooley is at all times in Las Vegas next week.
-Dennis Pitta TE Play of the Game: Ethan Erickson’s touchdown catch. Redshirt freshman Ethan Erickson from Laie, Hawaii came up with a huge touchdown catch to cap off BYU’s first drive of the second half. Erickson made his first ever catch for his first ever touchdown and this was the moment BYU seized momentum and never relinquished it, making this catch our Andrew George-Jonny Harline Game Winning Play. Erickson’s being a redshirt freshman and showing up big after BYU lost a tight end after the Oregon game has him as my Zach Wilson Freshman of the Game also. Big moment for a big young man who just waited his turn to make a big impact!
-John Beck Player of the Game: Jaren Hall. I have a feeling this will be a recurring theme for BYU. This time it was especially so with the running game struggling early in back-to-back games. Hall’s play gives BYU a chance in any game. He’s got good wide receivers, tight ends, and running backs that he knows how to get the ball to when they will do the most damage to the opposing defense. Against the Aggies, Hall was 17 of 27 for 274 yards and three touchdowns. That makes him 120 of 171 for 1,438 yards and 12 touchdowns. Cougar faithful, we better enjoy this guy in 2022 cause in 2023 he’ll be playing in the NFL.
-Resume Watch: BYU is 4-1 with Notre Dame and Arkansas heading west in back-to-back weeks. The good news is these are very winnable games against two good programs. Win these games and you are in the driver’s seat for a New Years’ Six game. You go 11-1 with wins against Baylor, Arkansas, and Notre Dame and you’re one of the top 12 teams in the nation and will be playing in one of those games. Those are the hopes, but that’s also not far from the expectations. Kalani Sitake has set the bar at BYU to be double-digit wins and a bowl win. That is a reasonable bar as an independent and as a Big 12 team. I absolutely love that that is was they expect of themselves and work toward.
-It Was Over When: The BYU defense came out and shut down USU in the 2nd half. I think that aggressive mentality that the Cougars rediscovered at halftime as a team was adopted the most by the defense. After a touchdown drive by the offense, Coach Sitake opted for aggressiveness and it put the BYU defense in a tough spot when the onside kick wasn’t recovered. At first, it looked like Utah State was going to march this down the field and score as they had in the first half, but the Cougar defense bowed up, held them to a field goal and this stop set the tone for the rest of the game.
-Rise and Shout Again: Next up is Notre Dame down in Vegas. This should be a truly neutral site game with Cougar fans making the drive down I-15 to support BYU. Notre Dame travels well and both schools have a national fanbase. The game is in a super nice stadium run by the Las Vegas Raiders and will be a great venue for a college football game.
The Fighting Irish lost two games early, one to a top three team in the country on the road and the other after a little bit of a hangover from the former while the team tried to get their feet under them. Notre Dame has gotten going with a tight win over the Cal Bears and then a big win over the North Carolina Tar Heels. Both the Cougars and the Irish will be established teams looking for a quality win against a tough opponent.
BYU will need to play in the first half against Notre Dame as they did in the second half against Utah State. The defense continued to force turnovers ending the game with three Aggie turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble), and held Utah State to only three points until the game was decided. The Cougars ran the ball well on offense in the second half with 117 yards on the ground. If they can do that from the start and force turnovers while not giving up any of their own, then their victory is the result. If they struggle to have balance on offense, it will all come down to Jaren Hall even more than normal. Look for Hall to be the ultimate difference maker for BYU and give them a fighting chance no matter what.
-Heart of a Lion: Gunner Romney. Welcome back, Gunner Romney! It was good to see Gunner Romney back and wearing royal blue on the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Romney was widely considered the best BYU receiver coming into 2022, and that’s saying something as we’ve seen how loaded BYU is at that position. Romney hurt his kidney by landing on a football in fall camp and missed the first four games. Back in action against the Aggies Romney had four catches for 51 yards. It’s good to see him healthy and doing what he does for this team.
Read about all the BYU games so far this season!
At South Florida (W)
Vs Baylor (W)
At Oregon (L)
Vs Wyoming (W)
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Most of this post I agree with, but the call of the game, I would have called the Bonehead Call of the game. With BYU scoring on the first drive and with a bit of momentum, the on-side kick gave USU a short field that resulted in points on the board. BYU’s defense had not been able to stop the USU running game in the 1st half and this was a big risk which cut into the Cougars slim lead Had they kicked it away and given the defense the entire field to stop the USU offense, they could have avoided the points and further extended the lead. I felt the same way about his call early in the Oregon game to go for a 4th down. That one did not work and may have had more negative impact on the outcome of that game than we know since it gave Oregon a short field on their first possession and momentum that they never relinquished..