Stepping up: BYU quarterback Baylor Romney leads bevy of backups in victory over No. 14 Boise State
PROVO - The BYU offense turned the tables on several issues that have ailed it in recent weeks, helping secure a big 28-25 win over No. 14 Boise State on Saturday night.
Addressing the lack of execution and somewhat questionable play-calling during critical situations was largely accomplished by a bevy of backup and even third- and fourth-string players, making the turnaround all the more remarkable.
"This is what I've been preparing for since I graduated high school, for my opportunity to come play at a collegiate level and it showed tonight." - BYU quarterback Baylor Romney
Highlighting the offensive turnaround was the play of freshman walk-on quarterback Baylor Romney, who was called on to start with backup Jaren Hall not passing concussion protocol.
"I thought he was great and you guys saw the composure that he has making guys miss and keeping his eyes downfield," said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. "That's something he has that's special."
Romney, who entered the season not even the clear third-string option, sharing the designation with the more experienced Joe Critchlow, managed to become the third option behind both Zach Wilson and Hill through standout practice performances in recent weeks.
In Saturday's win, Romney looked nothing the part of a redshirt freshman walk-on, going 15 for 26 through the air for 221 yards and two touchdowns. Even more important than the yards and the touchdowns was the lack of turnovers - and several big throws made on third-down situations to extend and ultimately finish drives.
"I give a lot of credit to coach (Jeff) Grimes and Aaron Roderick for getting him in a situation where he can be comfortable and using his strengths," Sitake said. "But you also have to give a lot of credit to him for being prepared. This guy come to work every day with the same mentality."
"This is what I've been preparing for since I graduated high school, for my opportunity to come play at a collegiate level and it showed tonight," said Romney, who graduated high school clear back in 2014.
The circumstances in which Romney earned his first start weren't exactly ideal, and not just due to the adverse weather conditions while facing off against a formidable Bronco defense. The El Paso, Texas, native had to operate without the team's two starting running backs and behind a patchwork offensive line missing starters Tristen Hoge and Keanu Saleapaga along with backups Kieffer Longson and Thomas Shoaf.
"I believe in the guys," Sitake said. "It's been a rough couple of weeks leading up to this game and we had to take our licks a little bit, but we've got to keep trusting them. These guys are a resilient group and when their backs are against the wall they respond the right way. The guys did a great job getting ready for this game."
Stepping up at running back were both Lopini Katoa and Sione Finau, the latter of whom rushed for a team-high 89 yards on 11 carries. Key offensive line fill-ins were Clark Barrington and true freshman Blake Freeland, who saw his first-ever action in Saturday's win.
Unlike recent games, the Cougar offense showed best during the second half.
With Boise State leading 10-7 at the break, Romney marched the offense downfield on the opening possession of the third quarter to take a 14-10 lead with Finau finishing off the drive with a 46-yard touchdown run. Two touchdown passes to tight end Matt Bushman of 27 and 39 yards, respectively, finished off the third quarter with the Cougars leading, 28-10.
Both of Bushman's touchdown receptions came off brilliant offensive play-calling, which caught the Broncos completely off guard. The first came off of a well-executed play-action in a fourth-and-1 situation and the second on the heels of a flea-flicker off a double reverse, which left the Boise State defense completely confused and Bushman wide open.
Jaren Hall was practicing for BYU this week, but he ultimately did not pass concussion protocol and will miss the Boise State game; redshirt freshman QB Baylor Romney will start in his place.
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