Three Observations From No. 13 BYU’s Comeback Win At USC
LOS ANGELES – BYU football improved to 10-2 in the 2021 regular season after defeating the USC Trojans 35-31 at the Coliseum.
Despite having a 4-6 record entering the game, USC didn’t roll over to nationally-ranked BYU. However, BYU needed a fourth-quarter comeback to derail the Trojans’ upset hopes.
Here are my three observations from BYU’s regular season in L.A.
#1 Impressive showing from BYU football fans
Everyone expected BYU would have a large contingent on hand at the Coliseum to watch the Cougars take on the Trojans for only the second time ever in L.A. They made their presence felt.
On multiple occasions, there were “B-Y-U” chants that rang through the cavernous Coliseum.
Many of the BYU fans that were in attendance on Saturday hailed from the Southern California region. BYU AD Tom Holmoe has to find a way to maintain a California presence on future schedules into the Big 12 Conference era for a couple of reasons.
One, it’s good for recruiting as you can tell California recruits they will have a chance to play in front of their home fans. Second, it keeps the west coast BYU fans engaged in the product.
BYU’s Independent “Coast-to-Coast” football scheduling has allowed Cougar fans around the country to see their beloved team.
The western BYU fans will have a little tougher time getting out to the isolated towns on the plains in the Big 12 Conference.
BYU should try to maintain their upcoming six-game series with Stanford to keep that west coast presence. Games against a San Diego State or USC, UCLA, would also be valuable matchups for BYU as they move into the Big 12.
With the following that BYU has out west, it would be foolish not to reward those fans with a game in California every once in a while.
#2 BYU was digging deep into their depth
On BYU’s final defensive series, they had a stretch of three snaps with a group of defensive linemen that included Blake Mangelsen, Josh Larsen, John Nelson, and Fisher Jackson. Quite a big difference from the group beating Utah at the point of attack back in September.
Then guys such as Atunaisa Mahe and Earl Tuioti-Mariner finished the job, but it was a physical football game that took a toll.
There were stretches of the game where it felt like another player was down due to an injury every time you blinked. USC was a hard-hitting team that wanted to win the ball game.
That’s what bodes well for BYU in the future is that they dug deep into their personnel and still came away with a victory against a motivated USC team.
“I’m really proud of the guys. If you look at the stats, we’re down a bunch of guys on defense. Not to make a lot of excuses, but we’re missing Keenan Ellis, Keenan Pili, we’re missing Chaz [Ah You], Payton [Wilgar], and we are missing Zo [Fauatea]. So there’s a bunch of guys that we’re missing. We had to rely on our depth,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake on Saturday. “So to have Max [Tooley] and Ben [Bywater] step up and get 13 tackles each, that’s huge. But you saw a lot of guys chipping in to make plays; we had to use a bunch of guys.”
The gap between Saturday night and the bowl game comes at a much-needed time for this team. They can now heal up, take advantage of the bowl practices, and get ready for whoever their next opponent will be in the postseason.
#3 Jackson McChesney has a bright future ahead of him
In August, BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said the battle for the third-string running back spot was important to him. Freshman Jackson McChesney ended up winning the spot, but his role never made a dent on the Cougars’ offensive gameplan until Saturday.
But with Tyler Allgeier being among the players that got banged up during the game, Kalani Sitake turned to the former Lone Peak High star. McChesney’s BYU career has had a few injuries, along with a record-setting performance against UMass two years ago. As a recruit, McChesney was once in speed competitions against Najee Harris (now with the Pittsburgh Steelers) to decide the fastest recruit at camps. “McCheesy” has always had the talent, but the opportunity didn’t pose itself for him to shine on a big stage.
He got that chance on Saturday.
McChesney showed that burst of speed plus power out of the backfield to cap off BYU’s comeback victory with a fourth quarter score that put the Cougars ahead for good.
“Tyler [Allgeier] was spent. You could see that he was so tired, and he’s been banged up all year long. I think he was running at fumes at that time. Credit to USC, they were bringing a lot of physicality to the game and tackling well. They were striking really hard. He knew at that moment that he wasn’t ready to go,” Sitake said. “We trust Jackson McChesney to get in there and make plays. He broke tackles and scored a touchdown for us. We feel like we have a lot of depth on this team and at that position.”
If Allgeier moves on to the NFL after this year, and when you see him getting banged up the way he was on Saturday, the argument for moving on gets stronger, McChesney is going to have the first crack at being one of the players to replace Allgeier.
Along with McChesney, Miles Davis is another name to keep an eye on down the road. The former wide receiver out of Las Vegas dressed again during the win against the Trojans.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.
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