Cougars grab first Big 12 win, 35-27 over Cincinnati

In a historic evening at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday night, BYU football secured its first-ever Big 12 Conference victory, defeating Cincinnati 35-27, in its first-ever Big 12 home game. The win unfolded in front of a sellout crowd of 63,834, marking the largest attendance since 2009.


PROVO, Utah – In a historic evening at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday night, BYU football secured its first-ever Big 12 Conference victory, defeating Cincinnati 35-27, in its first-ever Big 12 home game. The win unfolded in front of a sellout crowd of 63,834, marking the largest attendance since 2009.

The Cougars are now 4-1 this season and 1-1 in Big 12 play.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis completed 13 of 24 passes for 223 yards and two passing touchdowns. Slovis's 10 passing touchdowns this season match his total from last year at Pitt.

Freshman running back LJ Martin rushed for 66 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns. Martin now leads the team in rushing touchdowns with four.

Wide receiver Chase Roberts led BYU in receiving yards with a career-high 131 and scored a touchdown.

Max Tooley led the Cougars with a career-high 16 tackles, leading the Cougar defense, while AJ Vongphachanh tied his season-high with 10 tackles. Freshman linebacker Harrison Taggart, in his first career collegiate start, contributed a career-high 10 tackles, filling in for Ben Bywater.

Head coach Kalani Sitake notched his 60th career win with the Cougars.

[Full recap below]

“Glad we got the win. Give a lot of credit to Cincinnati. They did some really good things. They kind of put us in a tough spot as they possessed the ball for such a long time. They finished with 84 plays, and we had 53 on offense. The fact that we scored that many points on that few plays means that we probably had some explosive plays, but we also need to possess the ball, convert some first downs and get some drives going. Defensively, we also need to get off the field and get some stops. I’m glad we were able to force some turnovers and turnovers on downs. I’m happy that we won, but we also have room to improve and get better.”

Kalani SitakeBYU head coach

First Quarter

Martin quickly initiated the Cougar offense on the opening drive of the game, rushing for 25 yards on four carries. However, BYU's possession stalled at midfield, resulting in an eight-play, 27 yard drive that concluded with a punt.

The Bearcats began their initial drive at their own 20-yard line, advancing the ball 19 yards down the field before Jakob Robinson's third-down interception, which he returned for a touchdown, put the Cougars up 7-0 with 8:28 remaining in the opening quarter. Robinson's interception marked his third of the season and the seventh of his collegiate career. It was his first pick-six.

On their next drive, Cincinnati moved the ball to the Cougars' 37-yard line before an unsuccessful fourth-down conversion attempt with just one yard to go, relinquishing possession to BYU.

The Cougars took a 7-0 lead into the second quarter.

Second Quarter

Cincinnati concluded a 17-play, 90-yard drive with a 27-yard touchdown pass, evening the game at 7-7 with 10:59 remaining in the half.

Another three-and-out for the BYU offense resulted in a punt to Cincinnati at their own 37-yard line. The Bearcats quickly advanced the ball, eventually securing three points on a 33-yard field goal. The drive for Cincinnati lasted two minutes and 39 seconds, spanning nine plays and covering 42 yards. The Bearcats led 10-7 with 44 seconds remaining in the half.

The Cougars initiated their final drive of the half at their own 18-yard line, and consecutive passes of more than 20 yards to Hill and Roberts positioned BYU on the Cincinnati 38-yard line.

A pass attempt by Slovis to Isaac Rex led to a pass interference call on the defense. Subsequently, the BYU signal caller located a wide-open Lassiter down the sideline for a 22-yard touchdown, giving the Cougars a 14-10 lead heading into halftime.

After only gaining 38 yards on their first four offensive possessions, the Cougars' touchdown drive concluded in a three-play, 82-yard drive in just 36 seconds.

Third Quarter

A quick three-and-out for the Bearcats opened the second half, positioning the Cougars with possession at their own 27-yard line. Slovis opened the drive with a dart to Roberts over the middle of the field for 37 yards, followed by a one-handed snag by Rex for a gain of 14. 

Martin capped off the drive for BYU with a 29-yard scamper for a touchdown, helping give the Cougars a 21-10 lead with 11:38 remaining in the quarter. The scoring drive for BYU went five plays and 73 yards in just over two minutes. 

Cincinnati quickly responded in its following drive, scoring three points on a 22-yard field goal, going 71 yards on 14 plays in 6:14, cutting its deficit to 21-13. The Bearcats drive stalled on a 3rd-and-four pass breakup by BYU safety Crew Wakley.

With 5:24 remaining in the quarter, the Cougars began their next drive at their own 25 yard line. Later in the possession on a 2nd-and-21, Slovis in shotgun shimmied out of a sack and found an open Roberts down the field for 59 yards and a touchdown. The four-play, 75-yard drive extended BYU’s lead to 28-13 with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter. 

A 23-yard touchdown pass for Cincinnati on its next possession, capped off a quick five-play, 75-yard scoring drive in just 1:54, cutting its deficit to 28-20. 

On the Cougars’ next possession, a three-and-out forced a BYU punt that resulted in a muff by the Bearcats’ returner, which was recovered by the long snapper Austin Riggs at the Cincinnati 15-yard line, ending the third quarter with a massive swing in momentum.

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Fourth Quarter

Following the BYU recovery off the muffed punt, the Cougars ended a short drive with a one-yard touchdown run up the middle for Martin, extending the Cougars' lead to 35-20, with 12:41 remaining in the game. 

A Tyler Batty sack in the Bearcat’s next possession forced Cincinnati into and 3rd-and-long, which ended up resulting in a punt. BYU would take over at its own 38-yard line. 

On the Cougars’ next possession, Slovis hit Keelon Marion on a 13-yard out route and later connected with Hill for 21 yards down the left field sideline down to the Bearcats’ 19-yard line. Later in the drive, a high snap set BYU back to the 27-yard line, before the Cougars missed a 44-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide. 

Cincinnati began its next drive on its own 27-yard line before a 4th-and-one stop by the Cougar defense gave possession back to BYU with 2:42 remaining in the game. The stop for the defense was made by Tanner Wall and Ethan Slade, resulting in a turnover on downs. 

The Cougars would burn some clock and punt it back to Cincinnati with 1:36 remaining in the game. On the Bearcats’ next possession, Cincinnati would march down the field, scoring on a 31-yard touchdown pass that capped an eight-play, 80-yard drive in just 1:10. The Bearcats cut their deficit to 35-27 with 26 seconds remaining in the game. 

A failed onside kick attempted by Cincinnati that was recovered by Roberts, allowing the Cougars to take a knee and run out the clock. 

Next, the Cougars have a bye week before facing TCU in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 14, for a conference showdown at Amon G. Carter Stadium.