BYU rides Bulls 50-21 in season-opening win
TAMPA, Fla. — A weather delay of more than two hours didn't slow down No. 25 BYU football from a dominant 50-21 win over South Florida on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.
With lightning in the area, just before a planned kickoff time of 4:02 p.m. ET a weather delay pushed kickoff back to 6:37 ET. Despite the delay, the Cougars (1-0) put the game away early with 28 first-quarter points en route to a victory. BYU improved to 6-1 under head coach Kalani Sitake in season openers.
"We were fortunate to jump ahead and get an early lead," Sitake said. "It seemed like the first half took so long but we were able to grind some of the clock and end the game. I am looking forward to getting back home with no delays but finding ways to improve and get ready for our home opener next week."
Quarterback Jaren Hall went 25 of 32 for 261 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. The junior signal-caller also carried the ball five times for 17 yards. Three BYU ball carriers recorded over 50 yards on the ground, with running back Chris Brooks totaling a team-high 13 carries for 135 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a Cougar. Wideout Puka Nacua and running back Lopini Katoa added 76 and 55 rushing yards, respectively.
Hall spread the ball around with 12 different receivers recording receptions for the Cougars on Saturday. Redshirt freshman Chase Roberts led the corps with 41 yards on three grabs at an average of 13.7 yards per reception. Kody Epps led the team in receptions with four for 26 yards.
Defensive back Jacob Boren led BYU’s defense with six tackles (four solo), including a sack. Ben Bywater, Max Tooley and Payton Wilgar each contributed five tackles. Tooley notched his first career interception return for a touchdown while Ben Bywater and Tavita Gagnier also made pass breakups.
In total, BYU outgained the Bulls 575 yards to 293, including 314-121 on the ground. The Cougar offense converted 7 of 13 third downs and 2 of 2 on fourth down. Meanwhile, BYU’s defense held USF to just 4 of 12 on third down conversions.
BYU's 50 points were just the second game of 50 or more points in a season opener since 70 in 2001 against Tulane. Both 50-point season-openers have come under Sitake (55 at Navy, 2020). The 575 yards of total offense were just shy of the 580 the Cougars put up at Navy in 2020, marking the second-most in a season opener under Sitake.
After a two-and-a-half hour weather delay due to lightning, BYU began the 2022 season with a lightning strike of its own as Nacua took a handoff 75 yards for a touchdown on a sweep to the outside on the Cougars first play from scrimmage.
The Cougar offense and defense combined to score three unanswered touchdowns after Nacua’s game opening score, giving BYU a 28-0 lead at the end of the quarter.
BYU’s offense continued to flow on its second drive with chain-moving carries from running backs Brooks and Katoa. On fourth and two from the Cougars’ 43-yard line, Brooks followed the BYU offensive line for a drive-extending seven-yard run. Katoa would record back-to-back carries of 12 yards, setting up Nacua for a second rushing touchdown with a score from five-yards out that gave BYU a 14-0 lead with 8:44 remaining in the quarter.
The BYU defense had its way too in the first quarter, with linebacker Max Tooley returning an interception 33-yards for a touchdown with 7:58 left to make it 21-0.
Brooks would again help the Cougars convert on third down with a 40-yard run deep into USF territory on the ensuing drive. One play later, BYU again found the end zone as Hall connected with Keanu Hill on a 21-yard touchdown pass with 4:00 left in the quarter.
The offense expanded BYU’s lead to 38-7 in the second quarter with Hall leading two scoring drives. Epps, Brayden Cosper and Terence Fall each hauled in receptions of 10 or more yards as BYU marched deep into USF territory. The drive culminated in Hall finding tight end Dallin Holker for a 13-yard touchdown pass, pushing BYU’s advantage to 35-0 with 7:19 left until halftime.
Miles Davis and Isaac Rex caught passes on the Cougars’ next drive, setting up Jake Oldroyd for a successful 39-yard field goal attempt with just over two minutes until the break.
South Florida would score in the waning seconds of the half with a one yard touchdown plunge from running back Jaren Mangham.
The Bulls attempted to swing momentum to start the second half with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from specialist Jimmy Horn.
Despite a promising drive with contributions from Katoa, Brooks and Roberts, USF ultimately disrupted the Cougar offense with an interception of Hall in the end zone. BYU’s defense responded by forcing a quick three and out after a pass breakup from linebacker Ben Bywater and Boren’s sack of a scrambling Bohanon. The stuffed drive resulted in USF punting deep in its own territory, and ultimately giving up two more points to the Cougars when a high punt snap sailed out the back of the end zone.
The BYU offense returned to the end zone on its next drive as Brooks blew pas the Bull defenders for a 52-yard rushing score that expanded the Cougars’ lead to 47-14 with 5:32 left in the third.
USF would conclude the quarter down 47-21 after a nine-yard rushing touchdown from Battie with 2:23 remaining in the third.
Carries from Brooks and a 19-yard reception by Roberts helped BYU drive back into USF territory to begin the final period. Oldroyd would cap the drive with the Cougars’ final score of the night, this a field goal make from 37-yards out with 10:29 to go in the game.
BYU (1-0) opens its home schedule as it hosts No. 10 Baylor (1-0) on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN. Fans can listen to live play-by-play of the Cougars and Bears on BYU Radio SiriusXM 143, BYURadio.org/BYU Radio App or KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.