Tyler Allgeier outruns Utah State defenders in the win in Logan. (Dallin Wilks)

Allgeier carries Cougars to outlast Utah State 34-20

In case there was any remaining doubt, Tyler Allgeier made his definitive statement as one of the nation’s finest football players in carrying No. 13 BYU to a 34-20 victory over rival Utah State.

With just under 10 minutes left to play in the contest, the Cougars faced a late crossroads — quickly becoming a weekly occurrence throughout the current undefeated campaign. The Cougars controlled from the start, began to sag and allowed the Aggies to mount a comeback, now finding themselves in a pivotal drive, up just one score and in desperate need of insurance. To complicate the matter, they were playing their unexperienced third-string quarterback in front of a road crowd growing increasingly hostile.

It was a drive the Cougars couldn’t afford to waste. The offense had been stalling since injured starter Baylor Romney was replaced by the young Jacob Conover, and the worn-down defense couldn’t figure out how to get off the field. An energized Aggies squad was ready to pounce on any possible Cougar miscue.

Allgeier knew exactly what was at stake. None of it would matter. The Cougar running back — who had already run for more than 100 yards on the night — took the handoff on the drive’s first play and bolted for a 67-yard dash all the way to the goal line. Two plays later, Allgeier found the end zone for his third touchdown to ice the game for the Cougars.

Linebacker Ben Bywater best summed up Allgeier’s dominant evening. “I hope he goes high in the draft.”

Romney was electric as usual in his second start of the season, completing 15 of 19 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown in the first half. BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick shook up the play-calling with considerable variety in scheme and tempo to keep the Aggies guessing, scoring on their first drive and leading 17-3 early in the second quarter.

“We’re coming out hot, we’re coming out confident,” Bywater said.

Romney suffered a head injury just prior to the end of the first half and was replaced by Conover in the second, with the highly-touted recruit making his first appearance as a Cougar and first true game situation in more than three years. The freshman passer struggled early but found a way to manage the offense down the stretch, going five for nine on passing with 45 yards and, most importantly, a few solid handoffs to the heroic Allgeier.

“Every guy who’s not a starter has to prepare like he’s going to be,” Conover said. “(The offense) doesn’t skip a beat no matter who’s in the game.”

Continuing one of the rivalry’s more unfortunate traditions, Romney’s injury marked the eighth time in the past 10 Wagon Wheel matchups that BYU had to remove its starting quarterback because of injuries or ineffectiveness, with six of the replacements coming in the injury department. Despite the quarterback trauma, Sitake credited Conover for stepping into a tough situation to finish the fight.

“Thank goodness for Jacob Conover,” Sitake said. “We had to play with some depth. Some guys stepped up.”

The Cougars did an excellent job of spreading out the offensive attack, with eight players logging receptions and receivers Gunner Romney, Puka Nacua and Neil Pau’u combining for 12 catches and 153 yards. Tight end Isaac Rex grabbed a touchdown in a 39-yard performance, and Baylor even pitched in for the receiving effort with a 13-yard catch in the red zone from a Pau’u trick pass.

“We’re just trying to get points on the board,” Allgeier said. “We have everyone’s backs. That’s what’s different from other teams.”

Allgeier finished with a season-high total of 218 yards on 22 carries, averaging nearly 10 yards per attempt with three touchdowns. He was patient in waiting for a running lane, elusive against tacklers and explosive in the open field, putting the team on his back at every opportunity.

BYU’s defense continued its third down woes, allowing 11 conversions and a number of strikes over the middle from Aggie quarterback Logan Bonner, who threw for 276 yards and a pair of touchdowns before leaving the game in the fourth quarter with an injury. However, cornerback Kaleb Hayes played the game of his life, recording two solo tackles and three deep pass breakups which each spoiled Aggie drives. The Cougars bottled up Utah State’s rushing attack, with the Aggies running for an abysmal 22 yards on 35 attempts.

“What I was really proud of up front was stopping the run game. They have a really explosive team,” Sitake said.

The Cougar secondary especially struggled during blitzes, but the bend-don’t-break defensive unit managed three sacks and two interceptions, including a game-clinching pick in the final minutes from former Aggie Jakob Robinson.

“We started shutting down the run so they had no other option but to pass,” Bywater said. Filling in for the injured Keenan Pili, Bywater led the Cougars in tackles for the second straight week with nine, along with a sack and three tackles for loss. “I’m proud of how the guys played.”

The Cougars knew their first true road outing would be a challenge, but their resilience ultimately prevailed to move to 5-0 on the season and 16-1 since the start of 2020. The raucous Aggie student section — controversially placed right behind BYU’s bench — was relentless all night, but the Cougars wouldn’t let the noise derail their focus. “We were just making jokes of it,” Allgeier said.

The Cougars celebrate with the Wagon Wheel trophy on the field following their 34-20 victory over Utah State (Decker Westenburg).

Having finally found their scoring groove on offense, the Cougars hope to have either Romney or Jaren Hall back under center for next Saturday at home against Boise State to continue the quest for undefeated perfection.

“The fast starts help us, but I like ending the right way,” Sitake said.

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