BYU shocked No. 14 Boise State on Saturday, Oct. 19 with a 28-25 win.
58,930 fans turned up for BYU’s homecoming game despite the inclement weather. The crowd was spotted with sweaters, rain ponchos and eager faces ready to cheer the team to victory.
Boise State started off strong as John Hightower returned Skylar Southam’s 63-yard kickoff 28 yards to the BYU 35-yard line. The Broncos didn’t hesitate to take advantage and quickly traveled down the field for their first drive without much pushback from the BYU defense. The drive was topped off with a 12-yard touchdown carry by Broncos’ CT Thomas.
As rain turned into snow, BYU took control, quickly turning things around with a drive lasting 6:49 that finished with a 4-yard touchdown run from running back Lopini Katoa. The drive included several long passes from third-string quarterback Baylor Romney, who started the game as Zach Wilson and Jaren Hall are both out with injuries. Romney showed off his skills during the drive with a 22-yard pass to wide receiver Talon Shumway, an 11-yard pass to tight end Matt Bushman and another 13-yard pass to Shumway before Katoa found the end zone.
Boise State’s following drive lasted only two plays before Broncos quarterback Chase Cord was picked off by linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi on the BSU 42-yard line. The Cougars maintained possession and found themselves in the red zone at the beginning of the second quarter. With an eight-yard run by Romney into the end zone, BYU appeared to have taken the lead, but a holding penalty was called against the Cougars. Jake Oldroyd took the field goal at the 38-yard line and missed.
Each of the following five drives was short-lived and ended with a punt, with neither team earning a first down. Things picked up again with a long drive from Boise State that included a 14-yard rush by Cord. BYU’s defense held up and kept BSU from advancing for a touchdown, so the drive ended with a 38-yard field goal by Eric Sachse. With 28 seconds left in the half, Boise State took the lead 10-7.
The score remained the same as the first half came to a close and the teams headed into the locker rooms.
During the first half, Romney shone with 85 total passing yards, compared to the 57 yards thrown by Cord. Sione Finau and Katoa were the Cougars’ top runners with 23 and 25 yards, respectively.
BYU started the second half off with an astonishing touchdown drive that took just four plays. An 18-yard pass to Bushman put the Cougars on the 49-yard line, and after a 3-yard run by Finau, Bushman scored a touchdown with a 46–yard run which put the score at 14-10 with 13:03 left in the third quarter.
The Broncos pushed their way down the field, but were unable to push their way past the BYU 36-yard line, and ended up sending Sachse onto the field for a field goal. The kick was no good, and the Cougars kept their 14-10 lead.
BYU’s following seven-play drive put another touchdown on the board. The drive included a 39-yard pass to Shumway and ended with a pass to Bushman after a trick play that involved Romney pretending to fumble the ball while Bushman quietly ran behind the Broncos defense.
Four plays into the Broncos’ following drive, Cord was picked off again, this time by linebacker Jackson Kaufusi on the BYU 46-yard line. He returned the ball 13 yards to the BSU 41-yard line, and followed with a 39-yard touchdown pass to Bushman. This time, BYU ran a trick play which involved a handoff and double reverse while the tight end runs up the field unseen — the same play BYU used against Wisconsin in 2018. This lead to yet another Cougar touchdown, putting the score at 28-10 with 3:10 left in the third quarter. BYU outscored Boise State 21-0 in the third frame.
The quarter ended with Boise State having moved its way down the field with help from a pass interference call and an unnecessary roughness penalty against BYU. Going into the fourth stanza, the Broncos sat on the BYU 23-yard line, and a few short runs followed by a 13-yard pass to Octavius Evans put them in the endzone. With 12:42 left in the game, BYU led with a score of 28-18.
Three more drives ended with punts before Boise State forced its way into BYU territory with a 32-yard pass to Evans. Cord ran 21 yards in two plays, and then a 5-yard pass to Akilian Butler put the Broncos in the end zone. BYU’s lead was reduced to 28-25 with 3:17 left in the game.
From there, the Cougars managed to run down the clock, risking the game on a tricky fourth-and-one on the BYU 34–yard line. Fortunately, defensive back Austin Kafentzis forced his way through with a 2-yard run, and BYU won the game 28-25.
Romney finished the game with 221 passing yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in his collegiate debut as a starting quarterback. Finau ran 89 yards for the Cougars. The team managed to maintain the lead they gained before the last quarter of the game. BYU hasn’t had a fourth-quarter touchdown since its game against USC on Sept. 14.
Head coach Kalani Sitake said that one of the biggest things that helped the team take the win was the motivation that the players had, knowing that this was going to be one of their tougher games. He said the team thrives in difficult situations like this and he plans on working hard to ensure the team can continue to grow.
“We’re going to go to church tomorrow and then get to work on Monday,” Sitake said.
Some of the players said they focused on being aggressive during the game and they think that was something that significantly helped them. Romney said being aggressive was the main plan going into the game and it worked out for the team. Bushman agreed, stating that the change was something that made a difference between this game and past games.
“I don’t get why our team plays good sometimes and pretty horrible other times. I just think offensively we were more aggressive this game,” Bushman said.