BYU football upsets Arizona State 27-17 against all odds
In an early candidate for college football’s game of the year, No. 23 BYU kept its hype train running with a chaotic 27-17 upset victory over No. 19 Arizona State Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The Cougars would not be denied in the biggest test of their young season. It wasn’t the prettiest football — with the speedy, talented but wildly undisciplined Sun Devils squad gifting them 16 penalty bailouts — but it got the job done.
“With high energy and high effort, we can overcome a lot of mistakes,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said.
High energy and effort? Tyler Allgeier knows all about that.
BYU’s running back single-handedly saved the day late in the third quarter, dashing 60 yards downfield after an interception to chase down Sun Devil linebacker Merlin Robertson, then leaping and punching the ball out to force a fumble in one fluid motion. The sensational, acrobatic effort turned what could have been a disastrous turnover score into an all-time miracle for BYU.
“I don’t mind him being a good example of what our team is all about,” head coach Kalani Sitake said of Allgeier, also noting that he received the game ball. “We don’t quit, even when we’re down. Just him making the tackle is a huge play for us, but him going in there and poking the ball out, that’s what it’s all about.”
How did Allgeier sum up his clutch hustle? “Just trying to do my part.”
As if that was the simple, casual thing to do. Whether it’s pounding the rock out of the backfield or pulling an improbable Superman imitation over Robertson, Allgeier’s “part” is always crucial to BYU’s success.
The entropy began as soon as the game’s opening kickoff, where special teams ace Talmage Gunther forced a Sun Devil fumble on the return attempt which Hayden Livingston pounced right on for an early takeaway. With prime field position and an ignited crowd, Allgeier found the endzone to draw first blood a mere 30 seconds into the contest.
The Sun Devil offense — who ran like crazy in their first two victories — pulled a wild card and dialed into an early passing attack that caught the Cougar defense by surprise, marching downfield on their first full drive to tie the game at seven points each. BYU’s “bend-don’t-break” defense was pushed around throughout the night but showed up when it mattered most, grabbing two interceptions in the second quarter and escaping a few critical third downs attempts.
Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick got creative in the second quarter, adjusting BYU’s scheme to produce touchdown grabs from receiver Gunner Romney and tight end Isaac Rex. Romney, in perhaps his finest performance as a Cougar, hauled in six receptions for 95 yards and the 34-yard go-ahead touchdown on some triple reverse trickery from Roderick’s playbook.
BYU limped into the second half, with their first four offensive drives ending in three punts and an interception. The Sun Devils pivoted their focus completely to the run game, slashing through the Cougar defense on the ground and running as many as 11 times in a row.
Luckily, BYU’s “12th man” on defense came to play. In a game that was dramatic, confusing, emotionally exhausting and even comical at times, more than anything else, it was loud, and the crowd noise proved to have a seismic impact.
“They were literally the 12th man,” Rex said of the deafening crowd at LaVell Edwards Stadium. “ASU couldn’t even hear the quarterback. I just love the ROC so much.”
Arizona State hadn’t played in front of a road crowd since 2019, ultimately being unable to handle the decibel outpouring from BYU’s student section and the stadium as a whole. On a critical fourth-quarter drive, crowd noise baited the Sun Devils into four false start penalties, derailing any hope for a comeback.
“The fans were amazing, they were so loud tonight,” Sitake said. “I’m really thankful that they did that, it was a huge advantage for us.”
Once Arizona State was forced to punt its last breath of hope away, the three-headed backfield monster of Allgeier, Lopini Katoa and quarterback Jaren Hall churned ahead to grind a good five minutes off the clock in search of a late insurance score.
With just under three minutes left to play, Hall legged out a gusty 13-yard scramble to pick up the first down but was clocked hard on the tackle, removed from the game and taken to the team’s medical tent. Hall has since shared that he still plans to practice Monday and play as scheduled next week, but the moment of the injury was solemn and tense.
Replacing the fallen general, backup quarterback Baylor Romney was thrust into the high-pressure goal line showdown. No stranger to big moments with a thrilling, pinch-hit victory over Boise State in 2019, Romney threw a perfect, third-down endzone fade to Rex to put the Cougars up by 10 and ice the win.
“It was awesome to see Baylor trust me and throw me a good ball,” Rex said, adding that Hall “played like an absolute monster” as well. Hall completed 15 of 27 passes, threw for two touchdowns and tied for his career high with 214 passing yards. He added 38 rushing yards on seven carries and his two interceptions were the first of his career.
In addition to the Rocky Balboa-style right hook, Allgeier logged 69 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Neil Pau’u and Dallin Holker combined for 85 receiving yards on five catches and Katoa put up 29 yards on eight carries.
Linebackers Max Tooley and Keenan Pili led the defensive charge with 10 and seven tackles each, respectively. Earl Tuioti-Mariner and Pepe Tanuvasa both recorded sacks and Tooley and safety Malik Moore each snagged interceptions.
In possibly the game’s most impressive stat line, punter Ryan Rehkow averaged a whopping 52.8 yards on six punts, including a school-record 83-yard boot that brought the crowd to its feet.
With the win, the Cougars have knocked off ranked opponents in consecutive weeks for the first time since 2009 and three straight Power 5 opponents since the 1983-84 campaigns. BYU turns its attention to South Florida next Saturday in Provo, where Hall believes the offense can reach an even higher level.
“I think we can still open up the passing game more,” Hall said. “I think we can tear this thing open. I think it’s coming.”