The following notes are from BYU's 31-24 win against Liberty at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday.
TEAM FLAGS: Tevita Ika, Drew Jensen
ALUMNI FLAGS: Kyle Morrell (DB, 1981-84), Jim Herrmann (DL, 1980-84), Glen Kozlowski (WR, 1981,1983-85), Jay McDonald (LB, 1981-85), Robbie Bosco (QB, 1981-85)
GAME CAPTAINS: Micah Simon, Matt Bushman, Dayan Ghanwoloku, Khyiris Tonga
200+ passing games
In the game against Liberty, BYU threw for 306 passing yards. This was the 11th consecutive game that the Cougars have thrown for over 200 yards. It is the longest stretch since BYU had 12 games spanning the 2011-12 seasons.
Every quarter score
In the past two games, BYU has scored in every quarter. Against Utah State, the Cougars scored a touchdown in every quarter as well as in the game against Liberty.
You get a score!
BYU had four different players score touchdowns in the 31-24 win against Liberty. Micah Simon caught a two-yard pass, Matt Bushman caught a 44-yard pass from Micah Simon, Aleva Hifo caught a 41-yard pass and Moroni Laulu-Pututau caught a 17-yard pass. The Cougars had five different scorers last week against Utah State.
Spreading the ball around
The Cougars had eight different players catch passes in the game against the Flames. Micah Simon led the team with seven receptions for 91 yards. BYU also had eight different players with a rushing attempt with Sione Finau leading the group with 10 attempts for 69 yards.
With the win against Liberty, BYU won its third straight game. It is the first time the Cougars have won three straight since winning six in a row during the 2016-17 seasons.
In his second career start, Romney went 23 of 33 for 262 yards, three touchdowns and one interception while totaling seven rushing attempts for 36 yards.
Wide receiver Micah Simon threw his second career pass, this time for a 44-yard touchdown to Matt Bushman. Against Utah State he threw a 13-yard pass to quarterback Baylor Romney. His QB rating for the season is 504.4. Simon also caught a pass for a touchdown earlier in the game which was the first time a player had a receiving and passing touchdown in a game since 1992 when Byron Rex did it against Utah in a 31-22 win. He also had seven receptions on the night tying is career-high, going for 91 yards.
Matt Bushman finished with four catches for 86 yards and one touchdown. He went over 1,500 career receiving yards (1515).
Max Tooley posted a career-high nine total tackles with five solo stops. He also recorded a tackle for loss and a pass breakup in the game.
NOTABLE CAREER HIGHS and FIRSTS
First career sack: Keenan Pili (2nd quarter)
First tackle for loss: Keenan Pili (2nd quarter)
First touchdown pass: Micah Simon (2nd quarter, 44 yards)
Career high total tackles: Max Tooley (9 total tackles)
Career high passing touchdowns: Baylor Romney (3 passing touchdowns)
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake
I thought it was a good game. I give a lot of credit to Liberty; their guys came ready to play. They were really well coached and I thought they had a really good game plan. We battled with them. I was really proud of our players and how the resiliency that they showed and the opportunity to make more plays and get this win. We knew that they were a dangerous team and that they could do some things with the great talent on their team. Grateful that we were able to make more plays and get this win. There’s obviously a lot of things that we can correct and do better, but give a lot of credit to Liberty and some the things that they did and the plays that they made. Keeping it a close and entertaining game, I’m glad that our guys played harder and I am really thankful that we were able to get the win.
On how the team has evolved after tough losses
I thought the guys have always played hard. I was really proud of the way our guys played. You have to give a lot of credit to Liberty, I think coach Freeze had their team ready to roll. They were able to answer back. I can’t really say that we made a lot of mistakes because they really forced it. Honestly, the turnovers cost us, and we’d like to win the turnover battle, but they were able to take care of the football. Their quarterback, I think it was his 40th game starting, and we’ve had six quarterbacks play in that same amount of time. That guy spreads the ball out really well and gets the ball out quick. Defensively, whenever you try to bring pressure he just gets the ball out and he was able to find hot routes faster than a lot of guys I’ve seen. You have to give him a lot of credit, the game plan that they had and the opportunities they had to throw the ball around the field quite a bit. They have some really good talent at tight end and receiver and their offense and defense could make plays well. We knew it was going to be a battle. We knew we were going to get their best, and they were ready for this game. I was really proud of our guys who were also ready for this game and got the win. To answer your question in a long way, I think our guys are getting better, they’re learning. We’ve seen a lot of guys step up and make plays. We’re really thankful to get the win, we made more plays than they did. I’m really thankful that guys like Micah Simon could do a really good job of leading the way and creating a culture that we can keep building on and keep learning from these games.
On Max Tooley emerging as a player
I love the way Max makes plays. I yell at him and I’m either happy or I’m angry but, he’s a big playmaker just like a lot of guys on this team, and I expect him to make a lot of plays. Sometimes he makes mistakes and I’ll let him know about it. In the recruiting we were able to hold him here, keep him here. I think he’s a big time guy that makes a lot of plays, but I feel that way about a lot of guys we have on this team, especially the youngsters. I think there’s a lot more opportunities to make more plays. If you look at it, we weren’t able to force any turnovers and that’s a little frustrating, but I keep going back to Liberty, I think they took care of the football and spread the ball around. Their quarterback was really accurate and made some plays.”
On Baylor Romnyey’s play
He’s poised, he’s ready and the preparation he put in this week is the same we’ve seen from him. He’s always been ready to go and I love the way those guys work together, I love the whole group. I feel really confident in all those guys being able to get on the field. Micah Simon is campaigning to throw some footballs too.
BYU safety Austin Lee
On his thoughts about Liberty
They have a great quarterback and receiving crew. I think they’ve had really good chemistry. We knew there were going to be some back shoulder fades when they needed to get a comeback. They were really good at being on the same page. Their quarterback was really good at decision making. Credit to them because they played a great game and they’re a great team.
On how they handled the failed trick play in the fourth quarter
We just had to be excited about every chance to go onto the field. Offense, defense and special teams all work together. All phases need to come together. We need to go on the field and be excited to back up the special teams or the offense or defense, especially after a fourth down stop. We have to continue to sharpen things up.
On the prayer shared between the teams postgame
It was pretty cool. Even throughout the game, I felt like they had great sportsmanship. It was a surprise. It showed a lot about their character and their team’s standards. After the game, being able to do that, was really cool.
On playing another faith-based team
Playing football is fun. Playing a faith-based team shows that there is more to football. Just the type of guys that they were and how they were able to hold themselves to high standards, but still compete and have fun. There’s more to life than football.
BYU defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga
On his thoughts Liberty’s offense
That’s the name of the game. Especially running a three-man front. That’s just training ugly right there. We love the challenge. We trust our linebackers and our team behind us if they throw. It’s a challenge for the defensive line to get penetration.
On his message to the defense after the failed fake field goal
We live for moments like that. Especially as a defense. We practiced it a lot during practice. It was a sudden change. We just have to be aware of it and take advantage of it. We love a challenge. It’s part of the game and you just have to learn to love it and cherish those moments because life is short and football isn’t going to be around forever.
On reducing Liberty’s rushing yards
The defensive line told the linebackers, who have been doing so well, that we (defensive line) were too slow earlier in order to stop those runs. We took it upon us a defensive line to get penetration and it worked. Coach Kalani and Tuiaki did a great job preparing us.
On whether the win against USU was more satisfying
It was ugly man. But, we we’ll take the win. There were a lot of mistakes that we made, especially as a defense, that we wish we could take back. That’s just part of the game and we have to look past them and go back to the drawing board and watch film and learn from our mistakes. It’s hard to win game in college football, so we’ll take it as it comes.
BYU tight end Matt Bushman
On how the team feels after the game
It feels good. Winning is obviously way better than losing and just the moral of the team is so much better. We didn’t necessaries execute. We had some penalties and a turnover and that is disappointing. But, we were able to put points on the board to give us a chance to take the lead. Everyone feels good but there are definitiely some things we need to improve on.
On the touchdown on the double pass
It was the same play that Moroni Laulu-Pututau scored on against Wisconsin. I think Micah Simon got hit pretty hard, but he threw a good ball and in the corner of my eye I saw the safety running and trying to knock it down so I tried to snatch the ball really quick. I bobbled it a little bit and I am just glad I double touchded it and was able to hold on. We are just glad it worked. Those trick plays are fun and glad we could get that momentum.
BYU quarterback Baylor Romney
On getting the win
Credit to Liberty, they’re a good team. We knew they were going to be fired up and ready to compete this game. It was a close game all the way, maybe a lot of people didn’t expect it to go like this, but we were up for whatever. Just putting together drives and trying to put as many points on the board as we could was our objective the whole game. It came down to the last drive, but we knew we were going to have to fight for this win and it feels good to come out on top.
On the touchdown pass to Hifo on fourth-and-two
We called the timeout and to get something that we wanted to run. The coaches dialed up the perfect play call. Aleva with his speed was able to score on that play which was pretty cool to do on fourth-and-two. I think it definitely gave us the momentum we needed for the game to end. A big play on fourth-and-two can really crush some spirits on defense, so I really think that was the turning point of the game.
On the three-game winning streak
It really starts in practice. Ever since that USF loss we’ve really come together as a team. It’s made us closer and we’ve all worked harder for each other day in and day out.
On Micah Simon’s leadership
He’s definitely one of the leaders of the team. Especially on the offense, it’s good to have him around. He’s a vocal leader. It’s just good to have those kind of guys on your offense when you could be struggling early on in the season like we did for a couple of games. Guys like (Simon) can really turn things around.
BYU Wide Receiver Micah Simon
On how to keep the team motivated
You only have so many opportunities to play out of season and in a career. That’s really all it takes is to have that type of mindset individually and collectively as a team. We’ve been talking about, at least with a lot of the seniors, that we only have two games left in this stadium and that hits home. It really just makes it so much more special. Now, we only have one more here and that’s really all it takes to play as hard as you can because you never know when you’re time is done. Winning is everything to me. I don’t care how it gets done. It’s about doing your job and doing what is expected of you.
On throwing a touchdown pass to Matt Bushman
It was actually pretty fun. It brought back memories from high school. I guess I’ve had two completions this year with a little bit of pressure. It’s fun and I love the aggressiveness from our coaches. Every week they’ve put in some different wrinkles for us to go out and execute and it worked out tonight and I’m glad he scored. We’ve had tryouts before and I’ve won the tryouts. A few times after practices, we have little competitions and do some throws to try and hit the crossbar on the field goal. I’ve won those so I think it was just a unanimous decision to have me throw the pass.
Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze
I’m so proud of our kids. I thought our players came into this game and really left it all on the field for our university, our team, our coaches, our administration, our vision from Dr. Falwell from four decades ago to one night play in an arena like this against BYU. I have great respect for Kalani Sitake, his staff and his kids. I thought they played the game the way it was supposed to be played, both teams did, and with sportsmanship. It was hard and physical, and it was fun to be in this arena and this environment tonight. I’m disappointed that we couldn’t get off the field on that third down and give our offense a little more of a chance to score in the second half. There are a couple possessions that I wish I had over so I could call it differently maybe. I’m really proud of our kids. They fought for 60 minutes and stood toe-to-toe with a very good football that’s beaten some really good teams.
On forcing turnovers.
We’ve been fortunate since the second game of the year; we’ve really taken care of the ball well offensively and it was good to see us get a couple. I thought after we capitalized on the first long drive and scoring drive and then we got the pick. That’s the one that sticks in my mind, I wish I had that series over, I probably should have run the ball more looking back.
On the onside kick.
He’s usually really good at hitting the slow roller and that one he hit way too hard. At that point we were one score down and we felt like we might still get a possession. They played back a decent amount with their kick return team, and we just hit it too hard.
On the message to the team moving forward.
We’ll just keep building. There’s no quitting this team or this staff. We have to improve on third down defense and offensively we have a good team to take care of the ball and score some points. We’re going to build on tonight. I thought this was one of our better games we played. It’s hard to say that in a loss, but this is one of the better football team we’ve played this year and I really felt like we hung in there and swung with them pretty good.
Liberty quarterback Stephan Calvert
On the last drive.
We got stopped obviously, and we had a minute and a half to go down the field to score. We had a couple good plays on that drive, but we got stalled a little bit with the penalties. We fought our guts out and I’m proud of our guys and the way we handled that game. It’s not always how we want it to be, but I feel like we’re in a pretty good position here. We fought a whole 60 minutes.
On putting Liberty on the map with national television.
Yes. I think that’s something we’ve been looking for, for a long time now. We play well, it’s not how we wanted it to go, but we fought a whole 60 minutes and I’m proud of my teammates for that.
On the crowd.
The crowd was electrifying. It was an amazing feeling and amazing atmosphere. It was a great game overall.
On the BYU defense.
They mix it up a lot. Hats off to the defensive coordinator and the scheme that they have. Like you said, mostly on third down, they were bringing down the house and getting after us, but for the most part I felt like we handled them pretty well. Our line did a really good job this game protecting us. It’s a learning process because you can’t win them all, so we take what we learn from this game and we move on.
Liberty cornerback Javon Scruggs
On playing after missing last week.
It felt pretty good. Coach Symons he had the trust and faith in me, and I respect him for that. My defense had that trust in me too, that I could go out there and do whatever the task he’s called for me to do. I felt really good out there after that play and with last week, I got to watch more film on these guys.
On who he created for making plays.
The play caller for my defensive coordinator, Coach Symons once again, just believing in me. Coverage on the outside and what everyone else was doing, allowed me to get to the back field. It’s also what Coach Symons has been saying all week, that the quarterback will have a tougher read if you disguise your look. So, I disguised a man and I blitzed him.
On the fake field goal.
I actually read the kicker. He didn’t even approach to kick the ball, so at that split second, I knew I had to go guard him because the ball was going to come to him. Once I saw the holder toss the ball to him, I knew this was my time to make this stop to give our offense the momentum back and go down the field to tie the game up.
Liberty cornerback Bejour Wilson
On pushing through his foot injury.
I just want to be with my teammates and be on the field with them. I also trust in myself in seeing what I can do and how far I can go in practice. I’m staying in a lot of treatments and taking the right measurements in practice, so I don’t overwork it.
On the two turnovers (fumble and interception).
It was a breakout run and I put my head on the ball and then I saw the ball loose, so I tried to jump on it. The second one, I saw someone leak out and I stayed on top and I got the pick. They’ve done that plenty of times and I made sure I stayed on top of it.
On playing against an offense with so many trick plays.
You just have to smell it out, smell a phony and have good eyes.
On what they can take from this game.
Keep fighting and things will go our way eventually.