COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Football’s Year In Review For 2022 Season

Jan 4, 2023, 12:40 PM
BYU Football, Kalani Sitake, 2022 season...
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake completed his seventh season leading his alma mater in 2022. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The final Independent tour for BYU football has concluded. BYU finished the 2022 season with an 8-5 record. That’s two fewer wins than the 10-win mark BYU reached in 2021.

It was an underperforming finish for a season that opened as a preseason Top 25 team, then culminated with no ranking.

It could have been worse. After a winless October that had BYU at 4-5, the Cougars bounced back to win their final four games. Including a 24-23 New Mexico Bowl victory over SMU that saw the BYU defensive back Jakob Robinson come up with a stop on a two-point attempt from the Mustangs.

But when you take a step back and look at the entire body of work from BYU in 2022, it was an underachieving team. The Cougars were one of the most experienced teams in college football entering the 2022 season, plus they had a star at quarterback in Jaren Hall. So to only finish with eight wins, with a couple of games being swayed by a handful of plays, leaves BYU and its fans wanting more from what transpired this season.

Best moment of the 2022 BYU Football season

The fight from BYU to close out 2022 on a four-game winning streak

Every year during Independent seasons, at some point, the question arises, “What are you playing for?” That question carried much more weight in 2022 when BYU was at 4-5 on the season.

When asked that question, many players pointed to pride and wanting to restore winning ways back to BYU. At the moment, it sounded a lot like your typical “player talk.” But they backed it up.

Each week, BYU coach Kalani Sitake laid out a goal to inspire his guys heading into a game. First, against Boise State, it was defeating a rival. Then, Utah Tech, protect LaVell’s house. Then, in the regular season finale at Stanford, BYU made history by defeating the Cardinal for the first time. Then at the New Mexico Bowl, win a postseason bowl.

Credit to BYU players for buying in and not throwing in the towel when it could have been easy to do that. Even though BYU took a step back in 2022, the fight to finish strong will always be a lasting image for this team.

Best game

September 10, 2022: No. 21 BYU 26, No. 9 Baylor 20 (2OT)

Neither BYU nor Baylor lived up to the lofty preseason expectations placed upon them entering the year. BYU finished with eight wins, while Baylor ended the season with a losing record at 6-7. But at that late-night stage in early September, it was a glimpse at the future of the new Big 12 Conference.

And at the moment, it left BYU feeling the possibilities were endless in its new league.

The on-field product was entertaining with smashmouth football, big performances from Chase Roberts, Max Tooley, and Jaren Hall, and an atmosphere that ranks among the best in LaVell Edwards Stadium history.

The missed opportunity game

October 8, 2022: Notre Dame 28, No. 16 BYU 20 (Las Vegas)

BYU lost out on a home game in Provo against Notre Dame to play the Irish in Vegas. The Sin City contest was a Notre Dame home game with all the signage and field logos centered around the Irish.

The game was a struggle for BYU from the opening snap. As an injured Jaren Hall, who barely practiced throughout the week, threw an interception on the opening play. It set the tone for a night that never felt right for the Cougars. BYU made a run in the second half, but the Cougar defense had no answer for tight end Michael Mayer.

Offensive MVP

QB Jaren Hall

Pretty easy here to go with Jaren Hall. There’s an argument for Puka Nacua, but he wasn’t available in enough guys to put him above Hall. Hall finished his final season at BYU, starting in all 12 regular season games.

He passed for 3,171 yards, 31 touchdowns, and only six interceptions.

Hall also ran for 348 rushing yards, joining Steve Young and Taysom Hill as only the third BYU quarterback to pass for 3,000 yards in a season, along with rushing for 300.

Defensive MVP

DE Tyler Batty

BYU defensive end Tyler Batty finished his third season as the team’s highest-graded defensive player by Pro Football Focus. But, like the rest of the BYU defense, Batty wasn’t immune from his shortcomings. There were some missed sack or tackle opportunities in games, most notably against Arkansas. But in a season where BYU lacked continuity and playmakers, Batty was among the few players the Cougars could count on.

Batty finished with 52 tackles, seven of which were tackles for loss, plus he was third on the team in sacks with two. He also had four quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.

Special Teams MVP

Punter Ryan Rehkow

Rehkow finished his third year in the program on a high note. His performance in the New Mexico Bowl was Rehkow at his best. He averaged a season-best 58.7 yards per punt.

Earlier in the year, during a loss to East Carolina, he had a season-high 71-yard bomb that flipped the field.

Rehkow has an NFL leg, plus he’s one of the best punters BYU has produced since Lee Johnson in the 1980s.

Best newcomer

OT Kingsley Suamataia

The moment Kingsley Suamataia transferred from Oregon was a big deal for BYU. A former five-star prospect, Suamataia stepped into the BYU program and beat out a Freshman All-American and a week one starter to earn the starting nod at right tackle.

He started 12 games for BYU football at right tackle, allowing zero sacks. Suamataia earned Freshman All-American recognition from College Football News. The 6-foot-6, 325-pound will be one of BYU’s stars on offense as they enter the Big 12 Conference.

Best position group

Wide Receiver

The depth of BYU’s receiver unit showed itself in 2022. Other production sources had to emerge without Gunner Romney for the entire season except for two games, plus no Puka Nacua for four games. And they did.

Kody Epps became a star of BYU’s offense before a season-ending injury suffered against Liberty. Epps finished with 459 receiving yards on 39 receptions for six touchdowns.

Number two in receiving yards behind Puka Nacua was Keanu Hill. Hill finished with 572 yards on 36 catches and had a team-high seven touchdown grabs.

Brayden Cosper was a solid contributor in his final season with the program. Then redshirt freshman Chase Roberts put together some impressive games with 22 receptions for 357 yards and three touchdowns.

Imagine what this group could have produced if everyone had been healthy at the same time. Instead, they never had their complete personnel collection, yet they still produced at a high level.

BYU Football 2022 Schedule

Sept. 3 – at South Florida | Win | 50-21

Sept. 10 – No. 9 Baylor | Win | 26-20 (2OT)

Sept. 17 – at No. 25 Oregon | Loss | 20-41

Sept. 24 – Wyoming | Win | 38-24

Sept. 29 – Utah State | Win | 38-26

Oct. 8 – vs. Notre Dame | Loss | 20-28

Oct. 15 – Arkansas | Loss | 35-52

Oct. 22 – at Liberty | Loss | 14-41

Oct. 28 – East Carolina | Loss | 24-27

Nov. 5 – at Boise State | Win | 31-28

Nov. 19 – Utah Tech | Win | 52-26

Nov. 26 – at Stanford | Win | 35-26

Dec. 17 – vs. SMU | Win | 24-23 (New Mexico Bowl)

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 coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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