BYU defense steps up and holds its own against Baylor

When BYU visited Baylor in Waco last year, the Bears out-gained the Cougars 303 to 67 in rushing yards. Tyler Allgeier — BYU’s record-breaking back — looked nothing like himself, averaging just 2.2 yards per carry.

What a difference a year can make.

Although the Cougars only ran for 83 yards in Saturday’s rematch, Baylor gained a mere 152 yards on 52 carries. Holding the Bears to under three yards per carry may have been the difference in BYU’s hunt for revenge.

It came on a night where the offenses at one point combined for eight consecutive drives that ended in punts in the first half, with the Cougars were struggling to find traction against an athletic, physical Baylor defense.

Amid the offensive stalemate, it was the BYU defense that stepped up when it mattered most. BYU logged four sacks, six tackles for loss and had eight different players record at least four tackles. With the game on the line in the second overtime, the defense delivered a gutsy stop to clinch the victory and initiate the field-storming madness.

Linebacker Max Tooley (13 tackles, seven solo) said trusting each other was key to finding the extra gear on defense when the offense was stuck in neutral.

“When they were punting, we just took it as a sign we needed to step up,” Tooley said. “We had full confidence in our boys. We knew everything was going to take place how it was, and we trusted the process.”

Head coach Kalani Sitake credited that mindset to a challenge he issued last year’s team following its loss to Baylor to come back healthier and stronger, both mentally and physically.

“We had a bunch of guys get hurt [at the Baylor game], and we knew that we would have to come back different,” Sitake explained.

Sitake also said the team’s effort and resilience played a crucial role in the game. “Our guys just didn’t give up. Part of fundamentals is effort, too. It takes some mental toughness for those guys to respond the way they did.”

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