BYU football spooks Virginia 66-49 in Halloween thriller
What do you call a football game with 115 points, 1,322 total yards and 16 touchdowns?
Is it a shootout? A track meet? A ridiculous game of Madden on Xbox?
For No. 25 BYU and Virginia, it was “thriller night,” a Halloween eve instant classic with the Cougars out-blasting the Cavaliers 66-49 in Bronco Mendenhall’s highly-anticipated return to Provo.
It’s hard to determine which statistic was most impressive: Tyler Allgeier’s five touchdowns, the 66 collective first downs or the fact that BYU’s defense somehow orchestrated three takeaways while surrendering nearly 50 points. Throw in the fact that the Cougars were without four key starters in linebacker Chaz Ah You, receiver Gunner Romney, and linemen James Empey and Harris LaChance, and the win seems even more absurd.
It appeared to be a blowout early, with the Cougars racing to a 21-0 lead after less than seven minutes while the defense forced two punts coupled with a Payton Wilgar interception. However, Mendenhall’s highly potent offensive unit — averaging more than 37 points per game heading into Saturday — quickly flew back into the fight with six straight touchdown drives to end the half.
It all came down to BYU’s defensive heroics in the fourth quarter, forcing a late fumble and interception to stall the Cavalier momentum and put the ball right back in Allgeier’s hands. Rather than breaking down after the constant Cavalier abuse, they toughened up, extinguished the flames and made the plays that mattered.
“The difference was Ilaisa Tuiaki making adjustments at halftime,” head coach Kalani Sitake said of his longtime defensive coordinator. As helpless as BYU’s defense looked in surrendering 367 yards in the second quarter, it rebounded after halftime to give up just 140 yards and one score.
Quarterback Jaren Hall stated last week that the offense needed to reach “full fluidity,” and it’s safe to say that such status was obtained with 385 rushing yards and another 349 through the air — another new career-high for Hall. The Cougars compiled 10 scoring drives and never coughed up a turnover, even keeping Hall untouched with no sacks allowed.
“A-Rod’s a genius when it comes to calling the game,” Hall said of offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick.
Allgeier continued his outstanding campaign with 266 yards and five end zone trips while averaging over nine yards per carry, tying all-time BYU rushing leader Jamaal Williams for most touchdowns in a single game. Allgeier— so often BYU’s superhero and the clear heartbeat of the offense— was quick to deflect the credit for his value. “The defense came in clutch and let the offense have a lot of time on their hands.”
Hall connected with seven different receivers on the night, with brothers Samson and Puka Nacua logging 107 yards and a touchdown each. “As the quarterback, just get the ball to your playmakers. Just keep it simple.”
“I think (Jaren) is getting better every week,” Sitake said. “He seems to know where to go with the ball. (UVA) brought some pressure and he made them pay.”
In addition to Allgeier’s five touchdowns, Hall, Neil Pau’u and the Nacua brothers all scored as well.
“The stats say it. It was super fun on offense,” Puka Nacua said.
Wilgar and Ben Bywater led the defensive charge with 20 combined tackles, while Alden Tofa and John Nelson teamed up for a sack. Uriah Leiataua forced and recovered the late, essentially game-clinching fumble and Drew Jensen all but sealed the victory with an interception on UVA’s following drive.
Oddsmakers had stamped the over/under with 66 total points prior to the matchup, a sum that was surpassed before the end of the first half. BYU’s 66 points marked the most against a Power 5 opponent in school history, and the win over ACC opponent Virginia marked the fifth such power victory of the season.
National passing leader Brennan Armstrong haunted the Cougars throughout the night, notching 337 passing yards with four touchdowns and another 94 yards and two scores on the ground before exiting early with an apparent rib injury. Despite the loss, Mendenhall was welcomed back to Cougar country with a warm ovation prior to kickoff as fans showed their appreciation for the former BYU head coach.
“I’m grateful for the personal reception and for the fans,” Mendenhall said. “BYU has a good football team. I’m excited about their future.”
BYU is slated to jump a few spots in the national rankings tomorrow before its home finale next Saturday against Idaho State. The Cougars and Tigers will kick off at 1 p.m. Mountain time on BYUtv.