No. 23 BYU grinds out win over No. 19 Arizona State

Cougars overcome bizarre game for 27-17 win over the Sun Devils.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver Geordon Porter (2) is taken down by Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Talmage Gunther to force a fumble on a kick return at the start of the game in game action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Arizona State Sun Devils at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.

It was bizarre. And wild. And at times just made no sense.

To add to it, by the end of the night, the Cougars had lost their starting quarterback.

But somehow No. 23 BYU punched out a 27-17 win against No. 19 Arizona State in LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday night. BYU has now opened the 2021 season on a three-game win streak.

If there’s one word to describe this BYU team, which has now beaten three consecutive Power Five opponents and two consecutive ranked teams, quarterback Jaren Hall would say “warriors.”

“We haven’t won by the biggest difference in score, but we grind it out from the beginning to the end,” Hall said. “Even when things feel down, I don’t think we ever lose our energy. This is a group of guys who love each other and love coach Kalani [Sitake] and everything he teaches us. We’re bonded to this culture and it’s contagious. I think this is a different team than you’ve seen in the past at BYU.”

The Cougars only tallied 12 total yards in the first quarter, yet were the first to score.

On the opening kickoff, Talmage Gunther forced a fumble from Arizona State’s kick returner, which was recovered by Hayden Livingston. Three plays later, BYU scored — just 37 seconds into the game.

While the Sun Devils were able to tie up the score before the quarter was over, BYU wasn’t able to much of anything.

That is, until the second quarter.

BYU has been slow to start — at least offensively — in each game this season. But the Cougars were able to put two consecutive scoring drives together.

The Cougars had a shot at a third touchdown in the second quarter, but Hall’s pass late in the first half ended in his first interception of the season.

After halftime, the Cougars seemed to be plagued by the same first-quarter problemsnd almost had the game taken away from them.

With their lead cut down to just four points, Hall tried to avoid a sack and forced an ill-advised pass right to a defender for the quarterback’s second interception of the night. However, running back Tyler Allgeier chased down the defender and punched out the ball, which was recovered by Hall.

“I don’t mind him being a good example of what our team is all about,” Sitake said. “He doesn’t quit. Just him making that tackle was a huge key for us tonight. Those type of plays help you win games. I haven’t watched the film, but I believe that he went through some tough defenders.”

Hall would end up leaving the game with just a couple of minutes left, after being tackled on a keeper.

The redshirt sophomore threw for 214 yards and two touchdowns, but was also picked off twice and sacked twice. Hall added 38 rushing yards on seven carries.

Luckily for the Cougars, backup quarterback Baylor Romney was able to close out BYU’s drive and put the game away with a short touchdown reception by Isaac Rex.

“You have seen Baylor Romney play enough now,” Sitake said. “You know what kind of composure he has. You know how calm he is and he has a lot of confidence in himself. The team trusts him. We don’t feel like we have regular backups. We have a lot of depth on this team and we don’t want to be tested, but injuries happen and we are lucky to have guys step in.”

Down by 10 with 1:19 left on the clock, the Sun Devils were unable to respond.

“It’s hard to win an away game, especially when there are so many penalties,” Arizona State defensive back Chase Lucas said. “[The amount of penalties is] definitely something we are going to work on this next week. We had a few mislayers that cost us that we need to fix and we will move on from there.”