Analysis: BYU Faced Adversity In Important Win Over Washington State

Oct 23, 2021, 10:19 PM

BYU Football - Jaren Hall - WSU...

BYU football starting quarterback Jaren Hall celebrates after the Cougars defeat Washington State in Pullman. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PULLMAN, Washington – Nothing has come easy in 2021 for this BYU football team. But they wouldn’t have it any other way.

After two losses in consecutive weeks, BYU was dealt with adversity they hadn’t faced in a few years. Coach Kalani Sitake challenged his team to show more physicality this week, and they delivered.

Emotions were high for the BYU-Washington State game as the Crimson Cougs were looking to win one for their former head coach Nick Rolovich. BYU matched the intensity and because of that, they were able to come away with a 21-19 victory on the Palouse.

The BYU Football team desperately needed this win. The idea of going into next week’s matchup against former head coach Bronco Mendenhall and the Virginia Cavaliers on a three-game skid put the success of this season on the line in Pullman. Adversity struck, but Kalani’s squad answered when they needed it the most.

James Empey going down was a big blow as he appeared to suffer an ankle injury. He was on crutches shortly after suffering the injury. That moment could have quickly sent BYU spiraling as the offensive line has had musical chairs in recent weeks due to all of the injuries. Instead, Connor Pay stepped up and earned what Kalani Sitake called “Player of the Game” honors for the offense, stepping up in relief of the injured captain.

Wide receiver Gunner Romney also went down with a leg injury, the same leg, his left one, that he injured against Arizona. Immediately after his exit on crutches, Samson Nacua rose to the occasion along with Keanu Hill to showcase BYU’s depth at receiver.

Defensively, BYU faced adversity early in the 1st quarter, giving up an easy touchdown to Wazzu running back Max Borghi. In the win, the tackling was not pretty from BYU’s defense, but they did enough to hold off the run-n-shoot offense to only 19 points.

BYU made some changes defensively, with Jacob Boren playing some nickel. He ended up with a team-high five tackles in the win. Other standouts defensively included Pepe Tanuvasa, who was laying some bone-crushing hits that could be heard from the press box, and safety Malik Moore who himself said he was more upset about his two dropped interceptions than happy for his one pick.

Then, of course, there’s running back Tyler Allgeier. Allgeier ended up with 191 yards on 32 carries, giving BYU the chance to pound the ball at WSU and seal the victory. The sophomore running back shows that he can lead BYU to a win if he gets the volume of carries.

Quarterback Jaren Hall made great decisions of what was asked of him in the scheme. It was clear offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick wanted to establish the ground attack as BYU carried the football 48 yards. It made for a quick game, which was needed after the adversity and piling up injuries. Hall ended the day with 143 passing yards on 15-of-20 attempts. That was good for a QB rating of 135.1.

Then finally, the importance of special teams play was on display in this game. BYU’s offensive attack focusing on running the football backfired in the second quarter as they ran on 3rd & 16 in Wazzu territory. Instead of letting Hall air it out, BYU set up a chance to get a Jake Oldroyd field goal.

Oldroyd missed the attempt. And that miss later influenced BYU’s decision in the quarter to go for it on 4th & 2 which resulted in a turnover on downs. Last year’s Lou Groza Award finalist has now opened the door for Justen Smith or Cash Peterman to push him for the starting spot at placekicker.

But Oldroyd’s mistake and personal adversity ultimately didn’t decide the game. Washington State’s PAT unit was the difference in the game. After a second Max Borghi touchdown, the Wazzu PAT crew muffed the hold on the attempt, leaving an opportunity to then go for two. They didn’t convert.

It was a big win for BYU and now they can move forward knowing they back on track after a bump in the road the past two weeks.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Analysis: BYU Faced Adversity In Important Win Over Washington State