BYU vs. Arizona Postgame Notes
The following notes are from BYU's 24-16 win over Arizona at Allegiant Stadium on Saturday night.
TEAM FLAGS: Puka Nacua (WR), Mitchell Price (DB), Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters (QB)
ALUMNI FLAGS: Matt Bushman (TE, 2017-2020), Tevita Ofahengaue (TE, 1997-2000), Nick Greer (Built Bar CEO, BYU alum), Rudy Ruettiger (Notre Dame, 1974-75)
COIN TOSS CAPTAINS: James Empey (OL), Payton Wilgar (LB), Keenan Pili (LB), Jaren Hall (QB)
Attendance tonight at Allegiant Stadium was 54,541. It was the largest crowd ever for a football game in the state of Nevada. It was the second largest crowd for any team sporting event in Nevada. (2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final, 61,114).
BYU moves to 5-1 in season openers under head coach Kalani Sitake, with three wins over Arizona in that span. Sitake picked up his first win as a head coach in 2016 against the Wildcats in an 18-16 victory and another win in 2018 with a 28-23 win in Tucson. The Cougars even up the all-time series with Arizona at 12-12-1. BYU has won the last three matchups against the Wildcats.
BYU posted four sacks in the game. Keenan Pili, Uriah Leiataua, Payton Wilgar and Tyler Batty all picked up one sack apiece. BYU had two games in 2020 with four sacks or more. On offense, BYU gave up just one sack to a heavy-pressure Wildcat defense.
With 207 yards passing as a team, BYU has thrown for 200+ in 28 consecutive games. The third-longest streak in school history and the longest since 42 games from 1993-1996.
In his third career start, Hall went 18 of 28 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. He set career highs in completions and attempts and touchdown passes. He also added a 39-yard rush to set a new career-long. The 39-yard run was the longest QB run at BYU since Taysom Hill ran for a 39-yarder against Utah in 2016.
Pili set a career-high with 17 total tackles. It was the most tackles since Sione Takitaki had 19 against Western Michigan in 2018 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Pili had 10 solo tackles and added one sack.
Pau’u was the top target against Arizona, finishing the game with career highs across the board with eight receptions (tied), 126 yards and two touchdowns. He also threw a 9-yard pass and caught a career-long 67-yard touchdown. Pau’u also went over 1,000 career receiving yards in the game (1,084).
NOTABLE CAREER HIGHS and FIRSTS
Passing attempts: Jaren Hall (28)
Passing completions: Jaren Hall (18)
Receiving yards: Neil Pau’u (126), Chris Jackson (20)
Receptions: Neil Pau’u (8, tied), Chris Jackson (2), Keanu Hill (3, tied)
Tackles: Keenan Pili (17), Ben Bywater (10)
Longest career rush: Jaren Hall (39 yards)
Longest career pass: Jaren Hall (67 yards)
Longest career reception: Neil Pau’u (67 yards)
First career sack: Payton Wilgar
First career interception: Hayden Livingston
First FG: Justen Smith (40 yards)
Head Coach Kalani Sitake
I am really happy about the win. Obviously, there is a lot of things that we can improve on. I give a lot of credit to Arizona. Their coaching staff did a great job getting their guys ready to play, be motivated and once we got things figured out they just kept fighting through it. I was really proud of the fight from our team to respond and find a way to get the win. I am glad we got the win and find a way to improve from week one to week two
On Jaren Hall's performance
I thought he made some plays. He created some space for himself with his legs in the backfield. I liked the composure he had. He is a great leader for us. Obviously, there are some things he knows he needs to do and plays he wants to get back. We are just going to do as much learning from this game and find ways to get better. That guys knows how to play football and create space and his athleticism is something that is really beneficial for our program. I like the way he controls our offense. We obviously had some guys get banged up so hopefully, we can get those guys healthy and ready for next week.
On the evolution of the game
They changed it up and had some change of tempo things. We were prepared for a lot of it. There was just so much going on we were trying to figure out what they were doing. A lot of it was new things but most of it was what we saw on film and what we prepared for. The biggest swing of the game was the punt to the one-yard line, the safety and the following series. I feel like we could have gotten ourselves into a better position and scored more points on offense. I liked the way that our defense handled their run game but we have to tackle better.
Quarterback Jaren Hall
Arizona's defense came ready to play. There were a lot of question marks about what kind of team they would be. They are well-coached and they came out wanting to win this game. We just didn’t make plays to start out, but we figured it out and started rolling.
About going for it on fourth and five
It gives us confidence. Coach Kalani trusts us and we practice those situations every week. So on fourth down, we have a play ready and we execute.
On Neil Pau'u's performance
That is just a guy doing his thing. That is part of the reason that their defense started to change a little bit. Neil went out and did his thing and they made him go back to zone for the rest of the game. He was just doing what we knew he could and that’s just the game.
On being out in front of fans again
It was fun. I have said it before – we have the greatest fans in the world. To be in this environment here at this new stadium, to be in an NFL stadium, to look forward to the future is what every kid dreams of. To be here with our brother and our fans was surreal to get out of here the way we did.
Linebacker Keenan Pili
On the momentum change when Arizona got the safety
Obviously, no one wants to give up a safety. We were put in a hard situation on the one-yard line. We will take that on as the defense but the momentum on the sideline didn’t change too much. We just put our heads up and got back into it.
On the defensive performance overall
I think the defense did well. We had the effort and the intensity was there. We had a lot of stuff that we can improve and work on. But I am proud of our defense.
On how the team was after Keenan Ellis got hurt
I think it brought us together. You never want to see someone like that, especially a teammate and someone that we love. To see him like that hurts but we rallied together said that we would do this for him and do it for our brothers.
Defensive Lineman Uriah Leiataua
On the defense
We dialed up some pressures. There are a lot of things that we can fix like open-field tackling is one that we can work on. I am proud of the young defensive lineman that came in and did their roles. They didn’t back down. Some of them had some nerves but they started to shape up and we have some things to fix for next week. But we are going to come out swinging next week.
On the shift of momentum to Arizona
We just have to stay calm and keep up the energy. One thing I really like that our coaches talk about is controlling what we can control – our one-eleventh. We are just reminding our defense we have to make sure we are all doing our assignments, especially in certain situations. They did catch some momentum with their punt and props to them for that. We just need to do our best to stay active and dialed in the whole time.
Running Back Tyler Allgeier
On why the offense started slow
I think it was first-game jitters. We have seen it all around the country. I think we did a great job in bringing it back, bringing it down and getting those jitters out.
On what needs to happen for the offense to click
We started pretty slow, but I give the credit to Arizona's defense. They came out and played. They really played hard and I give all the credit to their coaches and their defensive staff. They came out wanting but we wanted it more. We just have to learn from this film and there are things that we can get better at. We will take this win and go on.