COUGAR TRACKS

Day After Thoughts From BYU’s Regular Season Finale Victory At Stanford

Nov 27, 2022, 11:42 AM
BYU Football, Tyler Batty, Tanner McKee...
BYU football DL Tyler Batty accounted for one of BYU's three sacks on Stanford QB Tanner McKee. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

STANFORD, Calif. – BYU football closed out the 2022 regular season with a 35-26 win over the Stanford Cardinal.

For a game that didn’t have much at stake, it became a news-filled contest with the injury to quarterback Jaren Hall and the bombshell resignation of Stanford coach David Shaw.

BYU left The Farm with another win over a Pac-12 program and caps off the regular season with a 7-5 record.

Before I drive up to SFO Airport, here are some of my day-after thoughts from BYU’s win.

BYU has a knack for making it interesting

With 12:48 remaining in the game, BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua scored a touchdown on a 25-yard carry that put BYU up 35-12. The game was out of reach, right? Not with this BYU team.

Since the conclusion of the 2020 season, BYU has not been a team that blows teams away. Obviously, the schedule was historically weak in that 2020 season with Zach Wilson amid COVID. But in the last two years, very little has come easy for this BYU squad.

Immediately after Nacua’s touchdown run, Stanford’s offense, led by QB Tanner McKee, went to work as they got to within nine with 4:39 remaining. After the seven-yard touchdown pass from McKee to Brycen Tremayne, it appeared this was going to be a game that went down to the wire. But then Stanford muffed the hold on the PAT, leaving BYU up by two possessions.

“I feel like we could have made it a lot easier on ourselves, but you gotta give Stanford credit for making plays and trying to stay in it,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake.

Since BYU’s 29-point victory over one-win USF in the season-opener, BYU’s largest margin of victory against FBS competition was 14 points versus Wyoming. And that game was closer for comfort during a time BYU was nationally-ranked.

Things didn’t come easy for BYU in 2022.

Curious to see what Tanner McKee does going forward

Stanford junior QB Tanner McKee had probably his best game of the season on Saturday night against BYU. The star signal-caller passed for 313 yards, one touchdown, and completed 31 of his 40 pass attempts.

Even before David Shaw’s abrupt resignation after the BYU game, there were questions about what McKee would do next in his football career. Does he pursue the NFL? Will he go into the Transfer Portal? Or does he stay at Stanford?

McKee holds interest for BYU fans because he is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served a two-year mission in Brazil.

If Jaren Hall does move on to the NFL, and McKee wants another college program to strengthen his NFL profile, I would have to think McKee would become BYU’s number one target. He was impressive on Saturday night, showing why he has the potential to be an NFL QB.

Sacks make things easier

Entering Saturday’s game, Stanford’s offensive line had given up 36 sacks on the year. But BYU’s defense had only recorded 10 sacks through 11 games. Something had to give.

The giving went in favor of the BYU defense. BYU racked up three sacks on the evening, with 1.5 coming from senior defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea.

Cornerback Gabe Jeudy-Lally also recorded half of a sack, and Tyler Batty had another.

BYU’s defense still gave up big yards through the air. But they shut down the Cardinal ground attack. Stanford is a banged-up group in that backfield, as their leading rusher was a converted safety.

Still, credit to BYU’s defense, who, since Kalani Sitake took over the play-calling, has improved a lot on the defensive side of the ball.

BYU has the personnel to create pressure and get to the quarterback. Each of those three sacks was a momentum killer for Stanford and served as emotional highs for a BYU defense that hasn’t experienced many of those this season.

BYU never quits

After securing a bowl bid in the win over Utah Tech, nothing was on the line against Stanford. The Cardinal had a losing season. Win or lose for BYU, an ESPN Event bowl game is their postseason fate. Nothing was at stake.

Despite the lack of stakes, BYU showed up and played with intensity and energy.

Throughout the week, players continued to mention the potential of defeating Stanford for the first time and or getting another victory over a Pac-12 team. That mattered to BYU, and it showed on Saturday night.

“BYU has never beat Stanford before, so that was a first,” said BYU tight end Isaac Rex after the win. “We kind of talked about that, since the Boise game, like making history with little steps. In terms of the rivalry with Boise, and then Utah Tech, and then Stanford. So we’ve been really motivated since that tough October, and it’s been cool to see the team just rally around each other and have a lot of fun.”

BYU’s willingness to not give up on this season after falling to 4-5 will be one of the unique attributes of this BYU season in 2022.

Did we see the last of Jaren Hall as a BYU Cougar?

When Jaren Hall was tackled on the 4th & 1 in the third quarter, something instantly seemed off. The mechanics of the tackle, paired with the awkwardness of how Hall’s ankle moved, it was apparent something was wrong.

Then Hall limped to the sideline and was done for the evening.

I had flashbacks to when Taysom Hill, an oft-injured quarterback, suffered a season-ending injury in his final game as a BYU Cougar against Utah State in 2016.

Like Hill, Hall has dealt with his fair share of injuries during his BYU career. Last season, Hall had a foot injury and cracked ribs. Before that, it was a hip injury and concussions.

The initial intel on Hall’s injured right ankle was that the X-rays were negative and the injury was “precautionary.” Hall and BYU coach Kalani Sitake didn’t rule out the possibility of him playing in a bowl game.

He had already committed to playing in whatever postseason game BYU plays. But at this point, even if he’s healthy and able to play, should he bother if the NFL is in his near future?

That will be a decision for him and his wife, Breanna. But if it’s the end, Hall will go down as one of the great quarterbacks in BYU football history.

His ability to take care of the football, improved accuracy in the deep ball, and his elite ability to run make him one of the best to do it at a school known for its top-shelf QB play.

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 Mitch’s BYU football coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Day After Thoughts From BYU’s Regular Season Finale Victory At Stanford