No. 21 BYU football bests No. 9 Baylor in double overtime instant classic

Kalani Sitake has done it again.

The seventh-year head coach is no stranger to dramatic upset affairs, but Saturday night proved to be his most impressive — if not signature — victory at BYU as the Cougars outlasted No. 9 Baylor in a double overtime thriller for the ages.

“I didn’t have any gray hair until I got this job,” Sitake said. “Magic happens at home, I guess.”

It certainly wasn’t pretty— BYU was without top receivers Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua, struggled to run the ball and missed two separate potential game-clinching field goals.

None of it would matter. The Cougars went the distance with the defending Big 12 champs, forced two overtime periods and delivered a massive fourth-and-goal stop to snatch the victory and incite a field-storming celebration.

“The team just kept believing they could get it done. I like the resilience with this group,” Sitake said.

Last October, BYU visited Baylor and was bullied all day long, with the Cougars’ depleted defense surrendering more than 300 rushing yards and 38 points to the physically superior Bears.

It’s funny how much can change in a year.

Former BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes — making his first trip back to Provo as a member of Baylor’s staff — called for 52 run plays, fully expecting the Cougar defense to break down eventually against his gargantuan offensive line to allow for another Baylor steamrolling.

There was only one problem with Grimes’ logic: the defense never broke down.

After spending the whole offseason hearing about its inability to generate pressure and stop the run, BYU’s defense played with a noticeable fire in recording four sacks and holding Baylor to less than three yards per carry. Ilaisa Tuiaki’s unit set the tone early in forcing four consecutive punts to open the night, keeping the Bears in check as BYU endured its own offensive headaches. “The defense kept us in it when we were struggling,” Sitake said.

Linebackers Max Tooley, Ben Bywater and Keenan Pili were everywhere, combining for 30 total tackles and suffocating the same Bears offense that had torched the Cougars a year ago to just 289 total yards.

“Coach Tuiaki had us well-prepped for this week.. I think he proved a lot of people wrong this week,” Tooley said.

Following an opening field goal, BYU’s offense sputtered as the two sides traded punts, with Baylor’s staunch defense shutting down Cougar running backs Chris Brooks and Lopini Katoa along with making Jaren Hall increasingly uncomfortable under center. For the first time in what felt like an eternity, it seemed as if BYU was without answers on offense.

Enter Chase Roberts.

Filling in for the injured Romney and Nacua — who combined for 249 receiving yards against Baylor in 2021 — Roberts rose to the occasion to log eight receptions for 122 yards as BYU’s most lethal weapon, hauling in a deep pass from Hall for a 20-yard toe-tapping touchdown just before halftime to give the Cougars the lead.

Hall and Roberts would connect for another go-ahead score in the third quarter, but this time with a twist: Dialing up some double pass trickery, Roberts caught a screen pass behind the line of scrimmage and fired right back to Hall, who scampered behind a sea of royal blue blockers into the end zone for a 22-yard touchdown.

How many other freshman receivers are catching AND throwing touchdowns in high stakes situations?

“We believed that whatever happens, we’re going to go perform and we’re going to go put points on the board,” Roberts said.

Though facing consistent pressure, Hall finished the night 23-39 in passing with 261 yards for a 123.7 rating. Keanu Hill caught four passes for 57 yards, Kody Epps added three grabs for 28 yards and the Cougars avoided coughing up any turnovers.

“The thing I was really impressed with is we took care of the football,” Sitake said. “That paid off in this type of game. It was a back and forth game, and I’m just glad we made that play on fourth down (in overtime).”

While getting the crucial fourth down stop in double overtime, BYU stumbled a few times in closing out the upset earlier. Typically clutch kicker Jake Oldroyd had a brutal outing, missing a 35-yard shot at the end of regulation and shanking another 37-yard try in the first overtime, both of which would have clinched the victory for BYU.

Upon finally securing the win, Hall chose to forego the raucous field celebration and instead embraced an emotional Oldroyd. “We believe in Jake,” Sitake said. “We support him and we love him. We wouldn’t be the program we are today without him.”

Following Oldroyd’s second miss, Katoa opened the second bonus period with a rushing score to put the Cougars ahead, leading to the pivotal fourth down stop to give BYU its first top-10 win in Provo since Ty Detmer took down No. 1 Miami in 1990.

Such a feat more than merits a good field storming.

“It’s been 32 years since we beat a top-10 team here at home,” Tooley said. “That’s history. Only so many teams come through BYU football and wins these games.”

“We’re here to shake up college football,” defensive lineman Fisher Jackson added.

A year to the day BYU received its acceptance to the Big 12, the Cougars sent a convincing message in taking down the conference’s defending champions. Sitake’s squad is now 23-4 since 2020 and ranked No. 12 in the country, inserting BYU into the playoff conversation as a legitimate force to be reckoned with.

“Right now we’ve shown that we can compete and win, and we’ll bring that confidence and energy into every game,” Roberts said. “Other teams will be scared to play us.”

The Cougars look to start the season 3-0 as they head on the road to face another ranked foe in No. 25 Oregon this Saturday.

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