Instant Takeaways From BYU’s First Big 12 Win Over Cincinnati

Sep 29, 2023, 11:58 PM | Updated: Oct 2, 2023, 1:45 pm

PROVO, Utah – The BYU Cougars picked up their first Big 12 win and improved to 4-1 this season with a win over the Cincinnati Bearcats.

The Cougars hosted the Bearcats for their Big 12 home opener at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah on Friday, September 29.

BYU defeated Cincinnati, 35-27.

Here are my instant takeaways from BYU’s first league win as a member of the Big 12:

Slow start, strong finish from Kedon Slovis

When the BYU offense took over possession with less than a minute of game time remaining in the first half, it seemed easy to think BYU should take a knee and move on to the second half.

To that point, BYU’s offense had not scored any points, but led by QB Kedon Slovis, they stayed on the attack.

Slovis manufactured an 82-yard drive in 30 seconds to put BYU in front of Cincinnati with a 14-10 lead going into the halftime break.

That end-of-half drive was just the beginning of high-level play from Slovis and the BYU passing attack. Slovis then completed seven of his first 10 passes in the second half, including two touchdown passes. One of those TDs was a 59-yard bomb to Chase Roberts that looked to be intended for Keanu Hill by ended in the hands of Roberts, who turned on the jets.

Slovis has played at a high level for BYU as they head into the bye week with a 4-1 record. A big reason for that is because of how he is running the offense.

BYU’s offensive line stepped up

Without Weylin Lapuaho in the starting lineup, it could have been easy to assume the struggles running the football would have continued against Cincinnati. The ground game wasn’t flawless, but they had explosive plays against one of the Big 12’s best defensive lines.

Cincinnati had its share of hits on Kedon Slovis in the first half. But the offensive line tightened up in the second half and Cincinnati wasn’t as successful in their blitzes.

The third phase of the game comes up big

Friday’s game had a little bit of everything. And when I say everything, I’m talking about a long snapper recovering a muffed punt. You’re reading that right; it happened on Friday.

BYU long snapper Austin Riggs recovered a muffed Cincinnati punt.

The Ryan Rehkow punt took a bounce and Cincinnati’s Braden Smith jumped up to get it. He couldn’t come down with it, so it was a live ball and BYU’s long snapper Austin Riggs comes up with it.

That fumble recovery was a big momentum swing as BYU’s offense just had a three-and-out and was booting it away to Cincinnati being up by eight points.

BYU took over on the Cincinnati 15-yard line and punched it in with a one-yard touchdown run from LJ Martin.

Throw to the side of Jakob Robinson at your own risk

At the beginning of the season, Jakob Robinson said teams throw at his side of the field because, “well, look at me.”

The former Orem High product has become a star at cornerback for BYU. He recorded his seventh career interception on Friday against Cincinnati, and it turned into his first career pick-six.

Robinson’s pick-six was the scoring that got BYU on the board to begin the game.

When Robinson arrived at BYU, he came with little to no fanfare as a transfer from Utah State. But he has emerged as a lockdown cornerback in Jay Hill’s defense.

Conservative play calling with big leads

There has been a tendency for this BYU offense to go conservative with play-calling when carrying a lead in the fourth quarter. It happened late in the fourth quarter against Arkansas.

The conservative calls happened again when BYU was up 35-20 on Cincinnati. Keep your foot on the gas, and don’t let up. BYU’s hesitant play calls gave Cincinnati another drive with a puncher’s chance of coming back down two possessions instead of having the door shut down three scores.

It’s a nitpicky thing, but it’s an area to monitor going forward. Big 12 games have thin margins for error. One conservative drive could prove costly eventually when BYU faces more explosive offenses.

BYU fans made an impression on the Big 12

You wouldn’t typically think a BYU/Cincinnati game would produce a historic crowd, but when it’s a Big 12 game, every matchup takes on a heightened stage.

Friday was the first-ever Big 12 home football game inside LaVell Edwards Stadium and BYU fans showed up.

The announced attendance was 63,834. A sellout and the biggest crowd to watch a BYU football game at LES since the overtime win over Utah in 2009.

That had to please Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark, who was in attendance to see two of his new schools squaring off in Provo.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for 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 in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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Instant Takeaways From BYU’s First Big 12 Win Over Cincinnati