Editor’s note: To help fill the sports void, The Universe is taking a look at some of the more memorable moments of the 2019-20 season across all BYU sports in a series of stories.
Backup quarterbacks thrive off of the thought that they could be thrown in the middle of the action at any time during any game.
Whether that happens against a bottom-feeder FCS team or against a nationally ranked rival, backups are constantly preparing for their chance to prove themselves.
For BYU redshirt freshman and third-string quarterback Baylor Romney, that chance came against No. 14 and undefeated Boise State on Oct. 19, 2019.
“This is what I’ve been preparing for since I graduated high school,” Romney told reporters after the 28-25 Cougar win. “I’ve been preparing for my opportunity to come play at a collegiate level and it showed tonight.”
Romney, a former University of Nevada commit, made his first career collegiate start against the Broncos on a cold, rainy Homecoming night at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Romney was thrown in the end of the game prior against USF, nearly leading the Cougars on a last-second comeback after second-string quarterback Jaren Hall suffered a concussion. However, the Boise game was Romney’s first chance to have a full game to work with.
Despite going 2-1 to start the season with overtime wins at Tennessee and at home against No. 24 USC, BYU had lost the following three games heading into Homecoming weekend. Expectations were low as the Cougars prepped to face a Boise team that seemed poised to make a New Year’s Six Bowl appearance.
The Broncos, however, were also forced to start Chase Cord, a backup quarterback, against BYU after their first-stringer Hank Bachmeier injured his hip in the game prior. Cord still had plenty of weapons to work with, though, including future NFL draftee wide receiver John Hightower.
After Boise State opened the game with a 70-yard touchdown drive, Romney and the Cougar offense answered with a 78-yard touchdown drive of their own. Romney looked confident during that first series, completing multiple passes on third down to keep the drive alive before Lopini Katoa finished it off with a four-yard touchdown run.
The Broncos turned the ball back over to BYU on their ensuing possession and gave Romney and the Cougar offense promising field position to work with. After firing a 10-yard completion to his brother Gunner to set up first-and-goal, Romney was feeling it as he evaded multiple defenders on a would-be eight-yard touchdown run. The score, however, was negated by an offensive holding penalty, and BYU would later miss a field goal attempt to keep the game tied at 7.
The third quarter was when things really started to click for Romney and the offense. With the Cougars up 14-10 and on their second offensive possession of the quarter, Romney lobbed a 39-yard pass to an in-stride Talon Shumway to put BYU at the Bronco’s 36-yard line.
“How about the arm on Baylor Romney?” ESPN2 play-by-play analyst Clay Matvick said after the play.
The Cougars then turned to a little trickery, as Romney found a wide-open Bushman on a play-action pass on fourth-and-one for a 27-yard touchdown.
After BYU’s defense came away with another turnover on the following possession, Romney and the Cougars pulled yet another trick play out of their pocket. Romney once again found a wide-open Bushman on a reverse-flea-flicker for a 39-yard touchdown, putting BYU up 28-10 with three minutes left in the third.
Boise State proceeded to tighten things up in the fourth, scoring twice to cut the Cougars’ lead to three, 28-25. BYU, however, held on for the win and defeated its second ranked opponent of the season at home for the first time in school history.
Romney ended up going 15 for 26 on the night for 221 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. He also joined some elite company in the win, becoming the only freshman quarterback not named Ty Detmer, Taysom Hill, Tanner Mangum, Joe Critchlow or Zach Wilson to win their first start at BYU.
“I thought (Romney) was great,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake told reporters after the game. “You saw the composure he had in the pocket and making guys miss while having his eyes down field. You have to give him a lot of credit.”
“He’s come to work every day with the same mentality,” Sitake added. “He watched a lot of film and prepared well. Us coaches trusted him to make some plays and execute.”
The win gave Romney and the Cougars plenty of confidence from that point on, as the victory over Boise kicked off a five-game winning streak. After Hall, who was cleared to start the team’s following game against Utah State, sustained yet another concussion aganst the Aggies, Romney was once again ready to seize his opportunity. Romney helped BYU cruise to a 42-14 win over Utah State then started the following game against Liberty, a 31-24 Cougar victory.
First-stringer Zach Wilson returned from his hand injury sustained early in the season to start the team’s final four games of the year. Romney stood by, supporting his quarterback counterpart but staying ready to get thrown in the action on a moment’s notice. Although Romney will likely stay behind Wilson and Hall on the upcoming season’s depth chart, his experiences in games this season, such as the win over No. 14 Boise State, have given him plenty of confidence to stay ready and step in when needs be.