Provo • A few weeks ago, Jaren Hall got away.
It was in the aftermath of a loss to East Carolina on a Friday night, and Hall retreated far from the football facilities for the weekend. He watched film by himself and let a four-game losing streak “soak-in.”
There was frustration, clearly, as he saw the struggles of his football team on tape and the unraveling of a season that once held such promise.
As a leader, he could have been justified in going into Monday’s meetings and letting his frustrations be known. But that’s not who Hall is. So, when he returned that Monday, he downplayed the most disappointing collapse in recent BYU memory. He said all the right things. And BYU responded with two straight wins to bounce back to bowl eligibility.
But even as Hall outwardly pushed all the right buttons, the more interesting part is how the face of the program has internally handled this season gone wrong.
“As a leader, a lot of times, you can take stuff on yourself. You can allow a lot of stuff to become burdensome,” Hall said when asked about the mental toll it has taken on him. “So for me, [I have to] stay positive and then look outward to see the guys who need to be reached out to.
“I wouldn’t say it is a [internal] challenge for any of our leaders,” he continued. “I’d say it is a great opportunity though for coaches and leaders, and all the players really. Focus on each other and make the most out of the situation we can.”
Before the season, Kalani Sitake didn’t mince words when he said this was Hall’s team — and with that was the opportunity for a fifth-year quarterback to put his stamp on the program.
Hall’s first year starting was defined by running back Tyler Allgeier. The year before that was about Zach Wilson. This season was supposed to be Hall carrying BYU to a third straight 10-win season before joining the Big 12.
But as the final weekend of the regular season approached, there was a laundry list of things that had gone wrong.
Hall has dealt with injuries to his shoulder since the fifth week of the season. He has never once had a full stable of receivers to throw to. And as BYU went on a four-game losing streak for the first time since 2017, people began to point to him to keep a locker room together.
“Now you just got to do what you can, and have the right perspective on things,” Hall said of how he has looked at the season. “... Regardless of what we thought we deserved to begin with and what we wanted to see happen in the end. Because it will say a lot more about us about how we finish than anything else. So just respecting the game and each other and Kalani and all he has done for us.”
Hall has played well this year. He has 28 touchdowns, tied for eighth in the country. He’s thrown for 3,085 yards. He could be the sixth quarterback taken in the 2023 NFL draft, according to ESPN.
But Hall knew the expectation was to lead one of the best offenses in the country. Instead, the Cougars were 65th in total offense until the Boise State game.
“We have had a rough season,” wide receiver Chase Roberts said.
Hall admitted after the loss to Liberty that the offense has been too inconsistent this year. It hasn’t been helped by a rotating cast of receivers, seemingly derailing progress at every turn.
His top three receivers have missed a combined 17 games. Gunner Romney has played in two games all year. Puka Nacua missed most of the first month of the year.
And then Hall lost one of his top targets, Kody Epps, for the season with a shoulder injury.
“[Jaren] is as resilient as you will find,” wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake said. “Maybe there are guys across the team [who’ve worn down]. If anything his energy and ability to be vocal has increased through this fire if you want to call it that.”
In recent weeks, as the close to the season came into focus, Hall turned his messaging into a more relaxed state. He has talked about character and finishing out a season that he knows wasn’t what was expected.
And for him, it seems, there is peace in that.
“I think it shows the character of this program and the players,” Hall said this week. “Playing our hearts our for Kalani and everything he has built here. When you don’t have the perfect season, the season you expect, it really comes down to how you finish it. We can’t control what has happened to this point. We lost control of that. So now it is what we can control and that is Stanford this week and the bowl game.”