Tyler Allgeier sprints downfield against UAB. (BYU Photo)

BYU football stumbles 31-28 to UAB in Independence Bowl

Tyler Allgeier did absolutely everything he could.

Just as it had all season, BYU was counting on its star running back to carry the team against Alabama-Birmingham in the Independence Bowl, perhaps needing him more than ever before with a backup quarterback under center, an injury-ravaged roster taking the field and rainy weather conditions interfering with the passing scheme on offense.

Falling into an immediate 14-0 hole in the first quarter sure didn’t help, either.

Unfazed in what could be his final game as a Cougar, Allgeier accounted for all 72 yards of BYU’s following drive into the end zone, sparking a performance where he would rack up 192 rushing yards and set a new BYU bowl record with three touchdowns.

While lighting up UAB’s defense, Allgeier lit up the BYU record books all afternoon. He notched another BYU best for most consecutive games with a rushing score, passed Luke Staley for the school’s single season rushing title and even eclipsed Taysom Hill for fifth place on the program’s career rushing leaderboard.

But it wasn’t enough.

BYU rallied from the early deficit to outscore the Blazers 28-10 into the early fourth quarter, but UAB’s own talented back, DeWayne McBride, bounced away from BYU defenders with 182 yards, marching the Blazers downfield and melting plenty of clock.

Following a clutch end zone pass breakup from Max Tooley on third down and just over six minutes left to play, the Blazers took a leap of faith on fourth down, where receiver Trea Shropshire slipped through the Cougar secondary to haul in the eventual game-winning touchdown strike from quarterback Dylan Hopkins.

The Cougars began what hoped to be the drive of the year to swipe away the victory, even converting a dramatic fourth-and-four on a quick toss to fullback Masen Wake, who hurdled his way to move the chains and keep BYU alive.

That renewed sense of life wouldn’t last long. It ended up quite literally slipping from BYU’s grasp.

On the very next play, backup quarterback Baylor Romney— a late pregame substitution for starter Jaren Hall— connected with Samson Nacua for what would have been another first down and more.

Nacua had been no stranger to important plays in his lone season as a Cougar, even running for a touchdown earlier in the second quarter. Nonetheless, in this, the biggest moment of them all, he bobbled the catch and coughed up the football. A swarm of Blazer defenders were ready in the neighborhood to pounce for possession.

All Allgeier could do was watch.

McBride continued his torturing of BYU’s run defense and melted the clock down to its last tick. Unranked, unknown UAB had stunned the college football world and officially clinched the improbable 31-28 Independence Bowl victory over No. 13 BYU.

There was no joy in Shreveport, mighty Brigham had struck out.

Picking up his first loss as a starter at BYU, Romney finished 15-23 in passing for 195 yards, crippled by the elements and a depleted receiving core playing without Neil Pau’u and Isaac Rex. Puka Nacua was smothered defensively and managed just a catch for nine yards on five targets, while Gunner Romney and Wake led the Cougars with three catches for 55 yards each.

Despite the torchings from McBride and Hopkins, BYU’s defensive effort showed flashes of brilliance on occasion. Tooley led the Cougars with 10 total tackles and a breakup, while Ben Bywater crossed the 100-tackle threshold for the season with nine stops and two tackles for loss. Tyler Batty exploded for 2.5 sacks — nearly tripling his season total heading into Shreveport — and safety Hayden Livingston scooped up an interception in the third quarter that led to Allgeier’s third touchdown.

Much like Allgeier’s outing, the defensive heroics weren’t enough to save BYU.

Following a magical campaign where the Cougars finished 10-2, defeated Utah, climbed as high as No. 10 in the polls and were de-facto “Pac-12 South champs”, the bowl loss to UAB casts a controversial cloud over the season.

Sure, BYU started a backup quarterback in the rain with the bottom half of their depth chart playing meaningful snaps, but at the end of the day, those are all just excuses.

Following BYU’s first consecutive 10-win campaigns since 2008-2009, the Cougars have plenty of question marks regarding next year’s roster, the most notable of which being Allgeier, whose draft stock is higher than ever following the Independence Bowl.

“I’m gonna keep you guys guessing,” Allgeier said when asked if he would be staying or going following the game.

If that’s a wrap on Allgeier’s BYU career, what a way to go out.

If only it had been enough.

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