Postgame Notes and Quotes - South Florida


The following are notes and quotes following BYU's 35-27 win over USF.

COIN TOSS: James Empey, Payton Wilgar, Uriah Leiataua, Neil Pau’u
ALUMNI FLAGS: Jim Freeland (LB), Byron Rex (TE), Mike Empey (OL), Justin Ena (LB)
TEAM FLAGS: Jared Kapisi (USA), Ammon Hannemann (State)

The Series
With the 35-27 win over South Florida, BYU has evened the series against the Bulls to 1-1.

250 Wins at LaVell Edwards Stadium
With the win against USF, BYU has won 250 games at LaVell Edwards Stadium since it was built in 1964. Upon construction, it was named Cougar Stadium and then renamed LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2000.

2021 BYU Hall of Fame
At halftime, the BYU Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2021 will be recognized. The five-member class was formally inducted during a ceremony last night hosted by the Cougar Club. This year’s class includes former National Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette (basketball), All-American Brian Banks (baseball), nationally recognized Athletic Trainer, the late Gaye Merrill, All-American Amy Menlove Otis (track and field) and All-American Carrie Summerhays Roberts (golf).

Big Time Plays
In the first two drives, wide receivers Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua got BYU into the red zone with big-time catches. Gunner Romney caught a 49-yard pass while Nacua grabbed a 55-yarder on the following drive. The Cougars scored on both drives. Gunner Romney brought in another 47-yard reception in the third quarter, this time a for a touchdown.  

Brother to Brother
On the first drive of the night, quarterback Baylor Romney connected with younger brother and wide receiver Gunner Romney. The 49-yard pass was the longest the two have had together at BYU. The two brothers also connected on a touchdown pass, a 47-yarder reception for their second brotherly touchdown. The brothers connected on a one-yard touchdown at Utah State in 2019.

For the second consecutive year, BYU has opened the season going 4-0. In 2020, BYU defeated Navy (55-3), Troy (48-7), Louisiana Tech (45-14) and UTSA (27-20). It is the first time in program history to go 4-0 in back-to-back years. The Cougars are now 15-1 since the beginning of the 2020 season.

Baylor Romney

Baylor Romney set a new career-high passing yards with 305. He is the 31st different quarterback to throw for over 300 yards in a game. The sophomore quarterback finished the game going 20 for 25, a career high in completions. Romney has thrown for multiple touchdowns in each of his three career starts now including two against Boise, three against Liberty and three against USF. He also is 3-0 in his three career starts collectively going 58 for 84 with 788 yards and eight touchdowns.

Puka Nacua
With a BYU career-high 55-yard reception, Nacua went on to set a career-high receiving yards at 102. The transfer from Washington bested his previous record set with the Huskies of 97 yards against Arizona in 2019.  

Gunner Romney
Romney finished with five catches for 119 yards and one touchdown. It was his first 100-yard game of the season and fifth of his career. He hauled in passes of 49 and 47 yards in the game.

Notable career highs/career firsts
Career-long passing yards: Baylor Romney (305-yards)
Career-long BYU reception: Puka Nacua (55-yards, 1st)
Career-high receiving yards: Puka Nacua (102 yards)
Career-high receptions: Masen Wake (5)
Career-high tackles: Caden Haws (7)
First Fumble Recovery: Lorenzo Fauatea (1st)

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake 
On main takeaways from the game
I think it's pretty evident that defensively we have to do a better job getting off the field. I’m definitely disappointed in the second-half defense. It felt like our offense was clicking and we're moving the ball and doing some really good things. You have to give USF credit. They took the ball away from us and didn't give in. They held the ball pretty well. We had maybe three or four possessions in the second half for our offense which is not good, but we have to find ways to get off the field. I need to do a better job at getting our guys ready. I felt the offense came to play. The defense for the first half was pretty good and we just have to find ways to make plays. I thought USF did some really good things. I can’t believe their quarterback is a young freshman. He can escape, he can run. It felt like we couldn't keep him contained and he was really, really athletic. He escaped a bunch of possible sacks and so I had to give them a lot of credit. They made some plays and we didn't make enough on defense in the second half. But, we got to find a way to make those more automatic and get points on board. But, thankfully we got the win.  I don't think we played our best as a complete team but I think there's a really promising thing, considering our backup quarterback and some really good things that we saw on the field. 

On if Jaren Hall practiced this week. 
Not enough for us to feel good about it. Every day it seemed like he was getting better and better but just wasn't enough. At the same time, Baylor was practicing really well. So, we felt like going into this game maybe having Baylor as the starter would be the right move and then have Jaren as a backup. But I think having Jaren as a backup was a little too tempting to use him a little bit. So I think we did the right thing by being safe and cautious, just watching out for him. I think that's what we ended up doing. We ended up shifting it out and just not even dressing him, just to stay away from the temptation of putting him on the field before he's ready.

On any positive outcomes from the game

We found a way to grind it out and win the game. Wins are really hard in college football. I'm disappointed in some of the things that happened tonight. I think we have to be thankful that we were able to get the win. And then give credit to South Florida for some of the things that they did, they saw an opportunity to play here and they showed up. I thought Jeff Scott did a great job getting his team ready. They were excited to play in front of our crowd, and you know they made a game of it. I have to give them a lot of credit, but I know we can play better. I know we can do a lot better, especially on defense. Offensively, I was really pleased with a lot of things that we saw. We just got to find ways to score points, and get it in the end zone, and not have to always rely on going for it on the fourth down. 

On post-game message to the players
I want to remind them that winning is hard, and appreciate the game, and respect the game by celebrating. I also remind them that the celebration has to be a little quicker because the games coming up quickly. We lose a day, and so I asked them to be smart and get their rest tonight, and go to church tomorrow. Be ready to go to Logan next week. The guys really expect a lot from themselves. They can be hard on themselves and so sometimes it's okay that they're really hard on themselves, they have the standard or expectation to perform. But I need to also let them know it's okay to make mistakes and it's okay to be thankful that you were able to grind out a win. So, hopefully, you know, the long faces will turn into something more positive and will get us there so we can focus on getting better, making sure that we play a good game next week.

On the success of the first half
I liked that. I think if you can score that many points that early then you're going to be in a good spot. So, I’m just really happy with what we saw from all three phases. I thought we did a really really good job. We were able to get, force them into field goals, and then we felt really good about where we're at. The second half was just kind of a dark cloud over us. It isn't our style of football that we're used to seeing from our defense. And then, and then we'd like to get the ball more to our offense. So, it's hard to score points when you don't have a lot of possessions. So then, but I was thankful that we got the win. I was thankful that our guys were able to get out there and grind it out and figure out a way to get the win for us.

BYU quarterback Baylor Romney
On the win
Some really big plays really carried some momentum for us. And I mean, it's easy to do when you got guys like we do up front, and the backs that we do. The run game got started really early for us. Overall, pretty solid there on offense, but obviously we got some things to work on, especially in the red zone. Ended with fourth and goal a couple of times there. Having that four and out there on that drive. But a pretty good day overall.

On knowing whether or not he was going to start as QB1
Early on Monday I started taking reps at the “one”, but I didn't really know for sure or not what Jaren’s status was going to be until really Wednesday. But, I mean starting on Monday I was practicing as if I was going to start this game.

On competing for a permanent starting position at quarterback
I mean that's a coach's decision, and I don't think anyone should ever lose a job due to injury. But again that's in a coach's hands.

On the offense’s lead in the first half
Yeah, I mean our goal when we touch the ball is to score touchdowns every single possession. And that happened in the first half. Things slowed down a bit and the second half for us we didn't get very many possessions and didn't take advantage of. I mean, that one opportunity in the red zone to score another touchdown. But again, overall pretty good night on offense.

On keeping the momentum on offense
I don't know if it's necessarily hard to keep the momentum, it's, it's obviously hard when you don't get as many possessions like we did in the second half. But, just being supportive of our defense, I mean they've had our backs for the first three games and tonight we were able to have their backs in a sense. But yeah, just, you know, staying warm on the sidelines as best you can and being ready to go score out the next drive.

BYU defensive lineman Pepe Tanuvasa
On defensive play tonight
We were focused on playing assignment-sound football and in the second half we really struggled to do that. Looking on the bright side, we haven’t played a full game of our best football so I am really excited for next week to show that to the fans and Utah State.

On what USF did to make things tough
The USF offense did a really good job at being patient, especially in the run game and they just waited for soft spots to show up and making it count when they did.

On all the injuries and rotations
I can see how that might be difficult, but we see it as a strength. We have a lot of depth, especially on defense. Bumps and bruises are going to happen, so I think it was a great opportunity for our younger guys to get some experience.

On USF quarterback play
He did a great job of extending plays and we just need to accept the challenge next time and do a better job executing our plays.

BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua
On how the game felt on offense
That has been our objective since week one to just come out strong and tonight we were able to just piece it together. Today was super fun, definitely a good time to sling the ball around a little bit and make plays in the air.

On defensive play
We trust our defense and we left them in some situations that weren’t the best, leaving them out there for a long time. We need to do better on our side of the ball and keep them well-rested. We love those guys and they held it out for us. They’ve held a lot of good teams to under twenty points. I think they played really well and obviously, they have some things to work on, but that’s why we play football.

On connection with Baylor Romney
Coming onto a new team, everyone always talked about how much confidence they have in Baylor and after tonight I can be a first-hand witness to that. Our connection worked great. I put my hands out and kept running and the ball fell into my lap. We still aren’t completely there, we’re not hitting on all cylinders, but we are making progress.

On how he felt his performance was
It was super fun and I think we are right on the bridge of going off, so I’m excited for future games. I pride myself in being able to run all routes, being a big receiver. I’m excited, it’s been fun to score touchdowns in the receiver group for sure.

USF Running Back Jaren Mangham
On USF’s ability to run the ball
I thought we did a pretty decent job running the ball, but there are some things we can still clean up. I felt like we controlled the ball in the second half and I'm doing a good job overall.

On Timmy McClain’s ability to extend plays
When Timmy has the ball in his hands, special things happen. When he's able to extend drives like that it allows us to put points up on the board. So, whenever he scrambles out to the pocket and makes plays for us with his feet or throwing the ball, that helps us march down the field and finish drives.

On USF running back room
I feel like our running back room has a lot of threats. Any running back that steps on the field, can go out there and perform.

On the slow USF start
The mentality was to not quit. We played a sloppy first half and started out slow, so we got to clean that up. A lot of our games and I feel like if we come off fast play all four quarters will have a different outcome. We can't dig ourselves in holes like that.

USF Quarterback Timmy McClain
On extending plays with his feet
First I need to go through my reads. Basically, one, two, three’s not there then I just need to be an athlete and extend the play.

On the crowd’s impact
That was due to the environment. With such a large crowd, we switched up a cadence a little bit so I needed to talk to the offensive line before every play and make sure we were on the same page.

USF Wide Receiver Xavier Weaver
On the fourth down play
We were just thinking about getting it in the end zone. We came all the way down the field and felt that we had to get it in the end zone. We actually ran the same play that was called before the timeout, but we took the timeout so we could take a look at the defense. It was a great question and we ended up executing.

On giving BYU a close game
We’re still not satisfied because we didn't win but of course we improve every week. We are just a couple plays away from being a great football team and we're not as far away as people think we are. We just need to watch the film and clean up a few little details.

On Timmy McClain’s quarterback play
I love his game and he fits our offense very well. He makes plays out of nothing when it's a broken play he will roll out, scramble and throw it down the field. He always has his eyes down the field and isn’t just looking to run. His game is really important to this offense.

On offensive line’s play in hostile environment
Amazing. Our offensive line has been playing great this year. We've been talking about it all week that this could be the loudest stadium we’ve ever played in, so we’ve been keying in on not making mistakes or jumping offsides and we did a really good job tonight.

On environment at LES
I would say this was definitely top three. This is definitely one on my list but I say UCF and NC State were also big games for me, Florida was a big game but I feel like they all feel the same. It’s just a lot of people out there yelling. So, you just need to lock in.

On getting a faster start
I'll say execution, executing plays. It's just small details that we need to clean up. If we clean that up, we'll be starting on way faster, which will make it a whole different ballgame.