COUGAR TRACKS

Day After Thoughts From BYU’s Slump-Busting Win Against Boise State

Nov 6, 2022, 3:18 PM
BYU Football, Jaren Hall, Running...
BYU football pulled off a big upset over Boise State, thanks in part to the running abilities from QB Jaren Hall. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football put together a season-saving victory over Boise State on The Blue Turf. The final score was 31-28.

Now that I’m back in Utah after a day of travel, here are some of my day after thoughts from the victory.

That win meant a lot to the BYU football program

After the East Carolina loss, BYU looked like a team that had forgotten how to finish ball games and come up with a victory. They were in a rut.

Pulling out a win on the road against a rival, as a sizable underdog, was an impressive accomplishment for BYU. You could see the emotion from BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe and head coach Kalani Sitake as they embraced on the blue turf.

In the postgame locker room, “Rise & Shout” was sung as loud as you’ll probably get from a BYU team. It was a big win for a group that needed something good to happen to them.

Saturday was the first feel-good moment for BYU since the Baylor win in week two. The wins over Wyoming and Utah State were met with critiques rather than celebration. It was a long time coming for this group, and they should enjoy the victory as they head into the bye week.

Postgame prayer

There was a special moment from the BYU and Boise State teams as they gathered together at midfield for a postgame prayer. The two programs had a similar moment in Boise in 2020 amidst COVID-19.

After the 2020 prayer, controversy followed. Atheist advocacy groups called for Boise State’s team Chaplain to be removed. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen this time around.

There’s a lot of respect between the BYU and Boise State programs. It was a nice way to close out a fun rivalry over the past decade. In the hierarchy of scheduling for BYU’s out-of-league rivals, there’s a case that Boise State should be number two behind Utah.

BYU needs Jaren Hall to continue running

BYU has made it a point of emphasis not to design runs for Jaren Hall to keep him healthy. But when your season is on the line at 4-5, it’s time to run.

Over the past two weeks, Hall has combined for 142 rushing yards and one touchdown on 20 carries. Hall had 50 carries for 126 yards and zero touchdowns through the first eight games of the season.

“I think that’s a tool that I have,” said Hall. “When teams start pinning their ears back, knowing you’re gonna throw the ball, you’ve got to find some ways to take advantage of the aggressive lanes they take. When teams are dropping out and having a heavy front four coming up the field, you take those lanes and you take them out into the space. So I think we’ll continue to do that. It’s never something that we call and plan on, but when a play presents itself, it’s what you do.”

When Hall takes off and runs, he has big play ability whenever he touches the rock. So it made sense at this point of the season to bring the tool out of the toolbox again with bowl eligibility at stake.

Impressive turnaround for the defense

Think about where BYU was defensively after the loss to Arkansas. The Hogs scored on nine consecutive possessions against BYU’s defense. At the moment, it looked like BYU couldn’t stop a team on third or fourth down to get off the field.

Fast forward to Saturday night at Boise State, BYU’s defense comes up with the fourth down stop against a team that still had New Year’s Six aspirations in their sight. BYU had three tackles for loss and a sack, plus a takeaway. They held Boise State to only 104 yards rushing.

Are there still flaws with the defense? Sure. The fourth quarter was a track meet for Boise and BYU’s offense. But they rose up in a big game, which no one thought was possible a month ago.

It becomes even more impressive when you factor in that they put together the performance they did without two of their top linebackers in Max Tooley and Payton Wilgar.

Puka Nacua is among the great BYU football wide receivers

A healthy Puka Nacua is a dangerous football player. Throughout his time at BYU, he has dealt with nagging injuries that have limited his talent from being on display every week.

The Puka Nacua we saw against Boise State is what a healthy Nacua can produce. He racked up 14 catches for 157 yards on 19 targets. Then, of course, he scored two touchdowns, including the acrobatic game-winner.

Because Puka’s time at BYU hasn’t been long, it might be hard to wrap around the thought of him being one of the best receivers in BYU history. But there’s no denying his talent. He’s a next-level player in the same stratosphere as Austin Collie.

Kalani Sitake isn’t known for making statements that put pressure on his guys. So when he boldly says Puka is one of the best players in college football after his memorable performance against the rival Broncos, it gives a lens into how people around the program view Nacua. He’s elite and he’s one of the best receivers in BYU’s storied history.

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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