BYU opens 2021 season with 24-16 win over Arizona
LAS VEGAS – BYU football opened its 2021 football season with a 24-16 win over Arizona at Allegiant Stadium in front of a crowd of 54,541 fans on Saturday night
The Cougars (1-0) topped the Wildcats (0-1) for the third time under head coach Kalani Sitake, all coming in season openers. It was Sitake's eighth win over a Power 5 program.
BYU used a 14-point second quarter to fuel the win, led by wideout Neil Pau'u setting career marks with eight receptions, 126 yards and two touchdowns in the game, including a 67-yard touchdown catch and even added a nine-yard pass to quarterback Jaren Hall.
Hall went 18 for 28 with 198 yards to go with two passing touchdowns while adding five rushing attempts for 36 yards. Running back Tyler Allgeier lead all rushers with 94 yards on 17 attempts and one rushing touchdown.
Linebacker Keenan Pili led all tacklers with 17 total tackles including 10 solo stops and a sack. The BYU defense tallied four sacks on the night and defensive back Hayden Livingston grabbed his first career interception. Linebacker Ben Bywater also set career marks with 10 total tackles.
First Half Review
After a scoreless first quarter, BYU made the most of its first drive in the second quarter. Three straight passes of more than 10 yards, including a fourth-down conversion, put the Cougars on the 24-yard line. A 9-yard pass gadget pass from Pau'u back to quarterback Jaren Hall pushed BYU into the red zone before Allgeier then brought the ball into the end zone for his first rushing touchdown of the season from 15 yards out. An unsuccessful PAT held the score at 6-0 with 9:17 remaining until halftime.
After a missed Arizona field goal, BYU found the end zone again as Pau’u brought in a 67-yard reception and running back Lopini Katoa ran the ball in to complete to two-point conversion bringing the score to 14-0 with 2:06 left in the second quarter.
The Wildcats recorded their first points of the game capping off the second quarter with a 28-yard field goal putting the score at 14-3.
- Quarterback Jaren Hall caught his first career pass – a nine-yarder from wide receiver Neil Pau’u. Pau’u is 4 for 5 in his career with 79 yards passing.
- Linebacker Keenan Pili recorded a new career-high in tackles at 11 in the first half. He finished the game with 17.
Second Half Review
On its first drive of the second half, BYU again found the end zone. A 39-yard rush from Hall put the Cougars in scoring position and Pau’u finished the drive with a six-yard reception as BYU pushed to a 21-3 lead with 7:28 remaining in the third.
An Arizona safety, followed by a quick drive capped by a touchdown and a two-point conversion shifted the momentum towards the Wildcats bringing the score to 21-13 with two minutes left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats threatened to score after moving down the field to start the fourth quarter. But with Arizona on the 9-yard line, Tyler Batty sacked the Wildcats quarterback and forced Arizona to bring in its field goal team, however, the kick was wide and the score held at 21-13 with 11:42 left in the game.
BYU pushed its lead to 24-13 as Justen Smith connected on a 40-yard field goal with 7:34 left on the field. But, Arizona again moved into Cougar territory before defensive back Hayden Livingston intercepted a pass giving BYU the ball back with just under six minutes to go. The Wildcats countered with a field goal with 49 seconds left on the clock but an onside kick ended up in the Cougars possession allowing BYU to run out the clock and secure its first win of the season.
- Linebacker Payton Wilgar recorded his first career sack and forced Arizona to punt
- Kicker Justen Smith connected on his first career field goal for 40-yards
- Defensive back Hayden Livingston recorded his first career interception
BYU returns home for its home opener against in-state rival Utah on September 11. The game will be broadcast on ESPN with an 8:15 p.m. MT kickoff at LaVell Edwards Stadium.