BYU defeats Liberty 31-24
PROVO, Utah — Four different Cougars hauled in touchdown receptions as the BYU football team defeated Liberty 31-24 on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Baylor Romney went 23 of 33 for 262 yards and three touchdowns, connecting with Micah Simon, Aleva Hifo and Moroni Laulu-Pututau in the end zone. Simon recorded a game-high seven receptions for 91 yards and added a touchdown completion of his own to Matt Bushman for 44 yards. Bushman had 86 receiving yards on four catches, followed by Hifo, who had four receptions for 62 yards.
Running back Sione Finau had 69 yards on 10 carries, while Lopini Katoa added 49 yards on 12 carries. As a team, the Cougars (5-4) recorded 471 total yards of offense to the Flames’ (6-4) 431.
Max Tooley led the defense with a career-high nine tackles, five of which were solo stops. Austin Lee and Isaiah Kaufusi had five tackles apiece, while Keenan Pili added four tackles and a sack.
Liberty opened the game with a 10-play 75-yard drive, capped off with a 19-yard touchdown reception over the middle by Flame tight end Zac Foutz.
After BYU converted on two third downs on its first offensive drive, Romney connected with Simon for a 47-yard completion as Simon was being interfered with to set up first-and-goal from the Liberty seven-yard line. Romney found Simon again two plays later as Simon hauled in a two-yard touchdown reception to even the score at seven.
The Flames marched down to the Cougar 26-yard line on the following possession before a false start penalty and an Austin Lee tackle on third down forced Liberty to settle for a 42-yard field goal attempt. Liberty kicker Alex Probert pushed the kick wide right, keeping the score tied at seven.
- Baylor Romney’s has thrown a touchdown pass for the Cougars in each of the last three games
- Romney’s touchdown marks his fifth of the season, tying Zach Wilson for the team lead
- Micah Simon’s touchdown reception marks the fifth of his career, second of the season
Romney connected with brother Gunner on the opening drive of the quarter on third down for a nine-yard gain to the Flame 35-yard line. After a defensive pass interference penalty brought the Cougars to the Liberty 20-yard line, Romney found Simon for another third-down conversion and a 10-yard completion to set up first-and-goal from the eight-yard line. The Flame defense held BYU on each of the following three plays, forcing the Cougars to settle for a field goal attempt. Jake Oldroyd converted from 24 yards out to give BYU its first lead of the game, 10-7.
The BYU defense forced a Liberty three-and-out on the following Flame possession after Keenan Pili sacked Liberty quarterback Stephen Calvert on third down for an eight-yard loss. The Cougar offense capitalized on the defensive stand two plays later, as Simon found a wide-open Bushman on a double-pass play for a 44-yard touchdown. The score gave BYU a 17-7 lead with 8:36 remaining in the half.
The Flame offense moved the ball to the Cougar 37-yard line on the ensuing drive before a Ghanwoloku pass breakup on third-and-nine set up fourth down. Liberty decided to keep its offense on the field and go for the first down, but the BYU defense forced a turnover on downs after another pass breakup, this time by Lee.
Both teams punted the ball back and forth to each other on each of the following three possessions, keeping the score at 17-7 for the Cougars going into halftime.
- Jake Oldroyd’s 24-yard field goal is his 14th make of the season
- Keenan Pili recorded his first career sack
- Micah Simon’s 44-yard touchdown pass to Matt Bushman is the first non-quarterback passing score since Aleva Hifo’s 31-yard toss to Moroni Laulu-Pututau at Wisconsin in 2018
- Micah Simon became the first player to record a touchdown reception and completion in a game since Byron Rex did it in a 31-22 win at Utah in 1992
BYU opened the half with the ball and converted on third-and-17 from its own 18-yard line with a 21-yard connection from Romney to Bushman. The Cougars drove down to the Flame 36-yard line following back-to-back runs by Finau but turned over the ball on the next play after Finau fumbled at the Liberty 22-yard line.
The Flame offense capitalized on the turnover, putting together a 12-play 72-yard drive and finishing it off with a 24-yard field goal to cut into BYU’s lead, 17-10.
The Cougar offense marched into Liberty territory on the following drive after a nine-yard completion from Romney to Bushman put the ball at the Flame 49-yard line. A four-yard reception by Finau on third down set up fourth-and-two. BYU’s offense remained on the field and, after Romney found Hifo near the sideline, Hifo broke a tackle and ran 41 yards for a touchdown. The score put the Cougars up 24-10 with just over four minutes remaining in the quarter.
Liberty’s offense responded, driving into BYU territory before Calvert connected with Flame receiver Gandy-Golden for a 41-yard touchdown down the sideline. The touchdown once again brought Liberty within seven, with the score at 24-17.
The Flames attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff, but Isaiah Kaufusi was there to recover it for the Cougars at the Liberty 47-yard line. Two plays later, Romney aired out a deep pass but was intercepted by Flame defensive back Bejour Wilson at the Liberty seven-yard line.
- Hifo’s touchdown was his third of the season, topping his career mark of two in each of the 2017 and 2018 seasons
After the BYU defense forced a three-and-out, the offense put themselves at the Flame 24-yard line following an 18-yard Romney run on an option play. After Romney ran again for a seven-yard gain, he proceeded to find Laulu-Pututau in the front corner of the end zone on the next play for a 17-yard score to increase the Cougars’ lead to 31-17.
Following a three-and-out from both teams, Liberty drove 46 yards in four plays and scored on a 13-yard reception by Foutz, bringing the score to 31-24 with 6:35 remaining.
BYU proceeded to march to the Flame 30-yard line and brought the clock down to 1:35 before getting stopped on third down to set up fourth-and-two. The Cougars lined up for a field goal but attempted a fake, as Oldroyd ran with the ball but was stopped short of the first down, giving the ball back to Liberty.
A D’Angelo Mandell six-yard tackle-for-loss and a false start penalty by the Flames set up fourth-and-21 with 32 seconds remaining. Calvert fired a pass down the sideline near the first-down marker on the following play, but it was broken up by Isaiah Kaufusi, securing the 31-24 BYU win.
- Laulu-Pututau’s touchdown catch was his first this season and the fifth of his career
- Romney’s three touchdowns tonight marked the first time a BYU quarterback has thrown at least three in a game since Zach Wilson threw four vs. Western Michigan in the Potato Bowl last season
- Romney’s seven touchdown passes this season leads the team
- BYU won its third game in a row, its first three-game winning streak since winning six in a row during the 2016-17 seasons
The Cougars remain in Provo next week to take on Idaho State on Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. MST, for their final home game of the season. The game will be broadcast on BYUtv and can be heard on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM and KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM.