Analysis: Freshman running back comes through in clutch moment; other observations from BYU football’s win over USC

The No. 12 Cougars took advantage of USC’s mistakes in two key sequences and also might be adding more names to their injured list.

(Ashley Landis | The Associated Press) BYU tight end Masen Wake (13) celebrates after running for a first down during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Southern California in Los Angeles, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Los Angeles • BYU freshman Jackson McChesney lay on the end zone grass in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with both arms outstretched in triumph. The running back from Highland who had appeared in just two games prior was seconds removed from punching in the 7-yard touchdown that gave the Cougars the 35-31 lead they didn’t relinquish.

Normally, that play would be called for Tyler Allgeier. But BYU’s top rusher was on the sideline getting a breather after a long night of getting banged up by USC’s defense.

“Tyler was spent,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “You could see that he was just so tired.”

Allgeier went to BYU’s medical tent in the second half after getting hit hard by a USC defender. He eventually returned to the game, though, and finished with 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.

Allgeier said he felt he had enough in the tank to take the field on that last drive. But he did credit the Trojans for playing “physical” defense, and it was a tough game to play in.

He also praised McChesney for being prepared to enter the game and make an impact.

“Jackson was just ready from the get-go,” Allgeier said. “Grateful for him and what he does and that he just had success tonight.”

McChesney ended up with 17 yards on three carries. The longest run he recorded was that 7-yard touchdown.

When asked further about McChesney’s touchdown, Allgeier pulled out a well-known aphorism but fumbled on it, prompting a playful and comedic moment from his head coach.

“It was frosting to the cherry right there,” Allgeier said. “Or, cherry of the cupcake. Whatever. [However] that goes.”

Sitake then said, “He’s hungry.”

The entire BYU team has been hungry all year, and it culminated in a final No. 12 ranking in The Associated Press Top 25.

Cougars capitalize on dire mistakes by USC

Two sequences during BYU’s win stood out when it came to how the Cougars gained separation from the Trojans before USC mounted the comeback that fell short.

The first was in the second quarter when the Trojans forced BYU, which led 7-3 at the time, into a situation where it would have to attempt a field goal. Jake Oldroyd actually made the 31-yard attempt, but it was nullified by an offsides penalty by USC, putting BYU at fourth-and-1 just 9 yards away from the end zone instead of fourth and 6.

The Cougars opted to go for it and were rewarded with a 9-yard touchdown run by Allgeier, allowing for a 14-3 lead.

Then in the third quarter, Jaren Hall threw an interception that was negated by a 15-yard penalty called on USC for roughing the passer. That call resulted in an automatic first down for the Cougars and allowed Hall to later connect with Keanu Hill for a 41-yard touchdown pass. The Cougars led 28-13 at that point.

While it’s true that BYU ended up losing that 15-point lead, it’s still notable that the team was able to make the most out of those situations, particularly because they gave the Cougars breathing room on the scoreboard.

Max Tooley, in answering a question about USC’s comeback, inadvertently explained why the Cougars were able to take advantage of USC’s miscues.

“Football is a crazy game,” Tooley said. “It can flip in the blink of an eye. One momentum play, one big play for them and next thing you know, they’re driving down and scoring a touchdown.”

In the case of the Cougars, those momentum plays were USC penalties.

More injured Cougars

Tight end Isaac Rex appeared to badly injure his right ankle during the game. He was carted off the field after several minutes of the BYU’s training staff attended to him.

Rex likely adds yet another name to the list of BYU players who are hurt and cannot play. Wide receiver Neil Pau’u has missed the past two games with a lower leg injury, and Gunner Romney did not suit up against USC after reportedly getting hurt during pregame warmups.

And that’s not to mention all the names on defense Sitake said were already missing. In addition, Allgeier and defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua were in and out of Saturday’s game after appearing to get hurt.

The good news for BYU is it will have a couple of weeks off before having to play a bowl game, so there’s time to get healthy.