Tyler Allgeier leaps into the end zone for one of his two touchdowns against Washington State. (BYU Photo)

BYU football outlasts Washington State 21-19 in battle of the Cougars

Tyler Allgeier and BYU rebounded from a two-game losing skid with a 21-19 road victory over Washington State on Saturday, clinching bowl eligibility for Kalani Sitake’s squad for the fifth time in six seasons.

Allgeier— who had been smothered to a dismal 33 rushing yards last week against Baylor— recorded a career-high 32 carries with 191 yards and two touchdowns at the head of BYU’s offensive attack. The talented running back even eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark for his career in the contest, needing the fewest carries to reach that mark in BYU history.

“it’s a blessing to have (Tyler) back there and block for him,” offensive lineman Clark Barrington said.

Despite the dark cloud of head coach Nick Rolovich and four assistants being terminated earlier in the week, Washington State came out swinging on offense with a 75-yard opening drive culminating in the first of three total touchdowns for Max Borghi. Once the Cougars struck right back with a jet sweep score from Lopini Katoa, they wouldn’t trail for the remainder of the game.

In a sport that so often comes down to the basic fundamentals, the most pivotal play of the game came on Washington State’s third quarter extra point attempt. Following Borghi’s second touchdown, a bad snap forced Wazzu to abandon the planned kick and attempt an awkward pass from the holder, who was unable to connect with an open receiver. Rather than tying the game or even taking a one point lead on a miracle conversion toss, Washington State found themselves at a one-point disadvantage that they would never overcome.

Quarterback Jaren Hall was a modest 15 of 20 on passing with 143 yards, making solid use of his legs and leading the Cougars in blue to convert eight of 13 third down opportunities.“I like what Jaren did, I thought he distributed the ball pretty well,” Sitake said.

Neither Puka Nacua nor Gunner Romney— BYU’s top weapons against Baylor a week ago— recorded catches against Washington State, but Nacua did add two rushes for 26 yards with some solid outside blocking. Receiver Neil Pau’u led the team with six catches for 70 yards, and tight end Isaac Rex added three grabs and 46 yards of his own.

Center and captain James Empey left the game early and was seen with crutches on the sidelines, but backup Connor Pay held his own and helped pave the way for BYU’s rushing attack to continue without skipping a beat.

“We can trust the guys that are second or third string, it shows a lot,” Allgeier said. “With Connor coming in, it shows the heart and grit that our line and offense have.”

BYU’s defense played much better than last week’s meltdown at Baylor, but still had trouble making clean tackles and allowing Washington State’s skill players to easily slip away from their grasp. “Our tackling needs to improve a lot.. at the end of the day football is about tackling,” safety Malik Moore said.

Moore snagged his team-leading third interception of the season in the first quarter but dropped two additional opportunities to intercept Wazzu quarterback Jayden de Laura. Atunaisa Mahe had BYU’s only sack, while first-time starter Jacob Boren tied for the team lead in tackles with Ben Bywater, each posting five total and four solo stops.

The win continues BYU’s undefeated stretch against the Pac-12 and marks the program’s first ever season with four victories over Power-5 opponents. With the losing streak behind them, the Cougars head home to Provo to face former head coach Bronco Mendenhall’s Virginia Cavaliers in an intense late night matchup next Saturday, where they hope the new momentum serves them well.

“(Winning) brings the confidence up now, but we gotta keep that momentum going forward,” Allgeier said.

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