There’s no better metaphor for what type of team BYU football is right now than the iconic third-quarter play that transpired on Saturday.
The Cougars, who came in at the No. 15 spot of the latest AP Poll on Sunday, went on to beat Arizona State 27-17, but the game could have easily gone another way.
After the Sun Devils made it a four-point game, BYU quarterback Jaren Hall threw his second interception of the game while trying to avoid being sacked. Hall was actually in the process of being pulled down when he opted to try to make a play instead.
Arizona State’s Merlin Robertson, who got the pick, was getting close to the end zone when he was finally stopped by BYU running back Tyler Allgeier. But instead of just getting the tackle, Allgeier jumped over Robertson’s shoulders and punched out the ball before falling out of bounds.
Hall, who had also chased down the defender, was in position to then recover the fumble.
That double turnover play is the perfect parable for the Cougars. BYU has to learn to fix its mistakes, but it’s not letting said mistakes dictate the game.
The Cougars will fight through each hiccup.
In fact, BYU tight end Isaac Rex believes that play served as the turning point of the game.
“Tyler just went back to his linebacker mode and literally saved the game for us because ASU would have gone up if they had scored that touchdown,” Rex said. “Tyler’s hustle was by far the most important play in this game.”
With big gambles come big risks
By now, Hall has proved to be a threat to opposing team defenses. If the pocket starts to crumble, Hall is quick to use his feet and can scramble for long yards.
However, on a second-and-12 play, Hall rushed for 12 yards on a keeper and went down hard on the tackle.
The Spanish Fork native stayed down while holding his abdomen.
After being tended to on the field, Hall walked off gingerly and missed the last couple minutes of the game.
Luckily for the Cougars, Hall didn’t suffer any major injury and is expected to be in next week’s game against South Florida, he said.
“I feel good,” Hall said in a postgame news conference. “Just got the wind knocked out of me. Those are some big boys.”
But it goes to show, while having the ability to run adds to Hall’s weapons, it also adds inherent risk.
The more Hall chooses to run, the more chance there is of suffering a major injury. Hall is aware of that, though, as he spent last year making himself more “pliable” to be able to take those hits and get back up.
“It still doesn’t feel good,” Hall said. “It’s still football. There’s still big boys, obviously as you saw. It is what it is and you just move forward and try to avoid it best you can.”
Establishing the run game late, stopping Jayden Daniels
BYU struggled to get any yards up in the first quarter, but struggled to establish the ground game for most of the game. By halftime, the Cougars had only managed 29 yards on 17 carries.
In comparison, Hall had thrown for 174 yards in the first half.
The Cougars fared a bit better on the ground in the third quarter, but it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that they really opened up, rushing for 81 yards.
By the end of the game, BYU accrued 361 total yards — 144 of which came on the ground.
Like Hall, Arizona State Jayden Daniels is good at breaking open and compiling a good chunk of rushing yards.
A week before coming to Provo, Daniels rushed for 125 yards against UNLV. Against the Cougars, he was only allowed eight rushing yards.
Daniels instead took to an air attack and threw for 265 yards, but was also sacked twice and picked off twice.
“We knew that playing a ranked ASU team was going to be a dog fight the whole way,” BYU linebacker Max Tooley said. “We just trusted our process and trusted our scheme and played hard on defense and the offense played their butts off as well. We just trusted the process, trusted our technique and making the plays that matter.”
Arizona State struggled with penalties
The Sun Devils did themselves no favors with the number of penalties they committed.
Arizona State ended up having made 16 penalties for a loss of 121 yards. While they were all a result of mistakes, a good chuck of them were a result of the fans in LaVell Edwards Stadium, specifically the student section known as the ROC.
At one point during the fourth quarter, the Sun Devils drew four penalties over six plays for false starts. The constant penalties served as momentum breakers by stopping drives.
“The ROC was probably the key, they were literally the 12th man,” Rex said. “The ASU offense couldn’t even hear the quarterback when they were over by the ROC and they false started five times because of that. They were the difference-maker in this game. They are so energetic and have such an awareness of what is going on in the game and I just love the ROC and all the BYU fans so much.”