BYU vs. Utah State Postgame Notes & Quotes
The following notes and quotes are from BYU's 38-26 victory over Utah State on Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Read the game story.
ALUMNI FLAGS: Ted Nelson (S, 1970), Toby Christensen (WR, 2000-03), Kaneakua Friel (TE, 2007-08, 2011-13)
AMERICAN FLAG: Anthony Olsen (TE)
STATE FLAG: Matt Criddle (DB)
LIVE ON FLAG: Jackson Kaufusi (LB)
SERIES RESULTS: BYU leads 51-37-3
The ceremonial lighting of the Y was conducted by the emeritus First Lady of BYU Football, Patti Edwards. Patti attended Utah State in 1950, where she met a young lineman on the Aggie football team by the name of LaVell Edwards and they later married in July 1951.
For the next 11 years, Patti moved her young family across the state of Utah as LaVell switched jobs before finally becoming an assistant coach at BYU in 1962. Ten year later, he became the Cougars' head coach, where he remained for 29 seasons, concluding his Hall of Fame career in 2000 as the sixth winningest coach in college football history. In 1989, Patti founded the American Football Coaches Wives Association.
From humble beginnings with Patti as the first president with just 50 members, the AFWCA has grown to more than 3,000 members. After retirement, Patti and LaVell fulfilled their shared dream of serving a full-time mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving as public affairs missionaries in New York City.
Heads or Tails
BYU won the toss for the first time this season tonight, giving it the first opportunity to defer to the second half, which the Cougars elected to do. BYU scored on its first possession of the first half and the second half.
With a pick-six in the first quarter, BYU has scored a defensive touchdown in two of its last three home meetings against the Aggies. Defensive back Michael Shelton returned a Utah State fumble for a touchdown in the Cougars’ 28-10 win over Utah State on Nov. 26, 2016. BYU’s last pick-six at home was Isaiah Kaufusi’s 32-yarder against Texas State on Oct. 24, 2020.
BYU (397) had just five more yards of offense than Utah State (392), but nearly 100 more yards over the air with 280 to the Aggies’ 188. Utah State had 204 yards on the ground to the Cougars’ 117. BYU finished with 97 tackles to the Aggies’ 61, with both teams recording five tackles for loss.
Wagon Wheel Won Again
BYU has won eight of the last 11 games and 17 of the last 21 games against the Aggies.
Sitake Era Success
BYU now holds these records during the tenure of head coach Kalani Sitake (2016-present)
- 12-0 at home and 25-2 when turnover free
- 20-0 at home when scoring 30+ points
- 15-0 at home when scoring in every quarter
4-1 to Begin
The Cougars victory over Utah State marks the 13th time in school history that BYU has started the season 4-1 and the first since 2014.
Return of Romney
Wide receiver Gunner Romney recorded four receptions for 51 yards in his first game of the 2022 season. His first catch of the game went for 34 yards, and he finished with an average of 12.8 yards. Last year, Romney averaged 17.47 yards per reception, good for No. 31 nationally.
Kody Epps led the Cougars with five receptions for 86 yards and a touchdown, averaging 17.2 yards per catch. After Chase Roberts led BYU in receiving yards the first three games of the season, the Cougars have had a different leader in their last two games (Keanu Hill last week and Kody Epps tonight).
Season of Hall
With 274 yards passing tonight, quarterback Jaren Hall now has 1,438 passing yards on the season. He is 120-for-171 with a 70% completion rate, 12 touchdowns and just one interception.
The Nation’s Leader
Linebacker Max Tooley’s pick-six in the first quarter put him at first in the country with two interceptions returned to the house on the season. Tonight’s return was 34 yards, one yard longer than his 33-yarder at USF to open the season.
Defensive backs Jakob Robinson (2) and Ethan Slade (1) combined for three pass breakups on the night. Both were teammates at Orem High School with Utah State quarterback Cooper Legas.
Micah Harper and Talan Alfrey each finished with 10 total tackles, marking the second time this season that BYU has had two double-digit tacklers. The Cougars last did so against Baylor when Max Tooley (13) and Ben Bywater (11) teamed up to total 24 tackles.
Keanu Hill: 31-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter was his team-leading fourth TD of the year
Jakob Robinson: First pass breakup of the year for Jakob Robinson (four last season)
Jake Oldroyd: Season-long 45-yard field goal in the second quarter
Kody Epps: Third touchdown of the season/career (8 yards)
Jaren Hall: Back-to-back games with 3 or more touchdown passes after tossing four last week. Hall had three games of 3+ last season.
Chris Brooks: Fourth touchdown of the year (18 yards)
Kaleb Hayes: Tied career-high with five tackles
Notable career highs/career firsts
Hobbs Nyberg: Career-long kick return of 35 yards (previous high 26 vs. Oregon)
Ethan Erickson: First-career reception went for a touchdown (14 yards)
John Nelson: Career-high of six tackles
Micah Harper: Career-highs in tackles (10) and solo tackles (5)
Alden Tofa: First-career sack
Talan Alfrey: Career-highs in tackles (10) and solo tackles (5)
Ethan Slade: Career-highs in tackles (5) and solo tackles (2)
BYU Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Kalani Sitake
Coach Sitake’s opening statement:
“Tough game. I am excited we got the win. Give a lot of credit to Utah State. I thought Blake Anderson and his staff had their guys ready to play. They did some different things that we weren't expecting, especially on the offensive side, but I thought they played really well on defense too. We could definitely play better ourselves. We just made a lot of mistakes and undisciplined play, just little things that we can fix. I didn't like that. Last week I talked about us not playing clean, and then the same thing happened again. That's my job, to demand better from our guys. Some really good things happened with competition. I thought some guys played really well tonight, and we'll just keep building on it. But a lot of credit to Utah State. I thought they came in with a great game plan. Their players were fired up and ready to play this game, and we played a little bit tight. I thought they played with an attitude of nothing to lose, and we played with an attitude of trying too hard not to make mistakes and then ended up making some mistakes. I need to find a way to get our guys to play more loose, have more fun out there and not make boneheaded mistakes. But that's my job as head coach, so we’ll work on that. Effort was good, and I thought the guys played really well. We made some adjustments on offense and defense, and I thought those worked out well for us. We're excited that we got the win. Obviously, at the end there we felt like it was good to get some back ups some reps, and Utah State then obviously scored on us, but it's okay. I'll trade in the points for the experience.”
On Utah State’s offense in the first half:
“Quarterback Cooper Legas did a great job running that offense, and we just couldn't get off the field at certain times.”
On avoiding slow starts:
“Give credit to the offenses that we've played against in recent weeks, but we need to find a way to make plays and not make mistakes. The easiest thing would be playing assignment-sound football and making better decisions.”
On quarterback Jaren Hall receiving a late hit:
“I’m sure he’s sore, but he'll be fine. Luckily, we have some extra days to rest, so we'll take advantage of that. He seems to be in good spirits and seems fine.”
On attempting on onside kick in the second half:
“We tried to do an onside kick and Utah State was ready for it, but I think it kind of sparked a little bit of energy in the defense. I'm glad we stopped them and forced a field goal, but I just want our team to know that we want to find ways to win. I wish we would have got the ball, and I wish it would have been executed differently, but when it's all said and done, I like the aggressiveness of the play call. We were willing to go out there and try to win the game by doing something to change the momentum.”
On kicker Jake Oldroyd:
“We still have a lot of belief in Jake. Maybe it's just that end zone, I have no idea. But we'll get it fixed. No one's harder on himself than he is, so right now he's not happy, but I'm trying to get him to be happy, because we won the game. We still believe in his skills. I thought he kicked off really well, so we just got to keep building.”
On wide receiver Gunner Romney:
“It's good to have him back on the field. He's been waiting for a while to get this thing going. I didn't want to believe it until I saw him catch his first pass, and then that was nice. We're a better team when Gunner’s playing. We feel great about our receiving group, but Gunner came back this year for a reason and I'm glad that he's able to get out there and make plays now. I loved seeing that light in his eyes and the excitement of being on the field. This is what he enjoys. Missing out on all those games since camp has been really hard on him, so hopefully he makes some more memories for us next week.”
Wide receiver Gunner Romney
What the rivalry means to BYU:
“This is one of the big in-state rivalries, so it always feels good to beat this team. It's always an extremely competitive game, no matter what the records are, and it's satisfying to come out with a win.”
On return from injury:
“I am super rusty for sure, but I'm just glad to be out there playing again. That's what first games are for, to see what I can improve on, shake off the rust and be ready to go for next week.”
On Jaren Hall finding him on the first play of the game:
“We talked about it before the game. That was something we were going to try and set up, to be aggressive on the first play. It just ended up working out that I was in the right spot.”
On effectiveness of passing game:
“Our receiving core is super deep. Even with Puka and I missing the majority of the year so far, Cody [Epps], Braden Cosper, Keanu Hill and Chase Robert have all stepped up huge. I think the depth that we have at the tight end position and the receiver position, as well as Jaren being an unreal quarterback, he looks super comfortable back there. He's just slinging the rock right now. Our passing game has been really fun, and I'm glad to be a part of it now.
On Jaren Hall’s leadership style:
“He's the same guy all the time. He's always going to be a good leader. He's always positive, is always helping people out and keeping others’ heads up. He's a great leader, and I really respect him.”
Wide receiver Kody Epps
On what it means to have Gunner Romney back on the field:
“That's a brother right there. That's a dude that I love to death, and I'm gonna love him for the rest of my life. As a true friend, as a true brother, to have him back on the field and see him make that first catch was epic. I know he's been waiting for a while. I've been wanting to for him, and the team has been waiting for him, so it was pretty sick to see that.”
On if the team is improving and the culture of love and learning:
“We’re improving every week. Coach Kalani always talks about love and learning, so that's our mantra. That's what we live by, and that's what we follow. So every week, we're trying to love better, we're trying to learn better, we're trying to progress in that aspect of life and on the football field, of course, so our growth is going to be continuous.”
On the matchup with Notre Dame:
“This team [Notre Dame] is amazing. Notre Dame is traditionally a great team, and we have an amazing team going into Vegas too, so it's going to be pretty sick. I think the story is going to be epic for years to come.”
Defensive lineman John Nelson
On preparing for Bonner and Legas:
“Going in, we knew that there was a chance that Bonner wouldn't play. We did plan for Legas. We had some different looks in practice, and so when we got the news that Logan [Bonner] wasn’t playing, we were able to stick to our game plan.”
Linebacker Max Tooley
On his interception return for a touchdown:
“Since I started playing football, every time the ball lands in my hands, the mentality is to score, whether it's offense or defense. These days, I only get defensive opportunities, but it was the same sort of situation. I just needed to score and do what I had to do.”
On improving the team’s defensive play:
“It's a lot of the fundamentals, just the basic things like wrapping up and tackling. Myself included, I left way too many plays out on the field today. I'm not really satisfied to be honest. I feel like staying focused all week is something we really need to focus on, just staying locked and dialed in with our technique and fundamentals.”
On next week’s game against Notre Dame:
“Notre Dame, they're always tough. We haven't really looked too much into them. We were focused on Utah State all the way this week. But they're a tough team. They're always one of the best in the country, regardless of what people may say. We know they're going to come to play. They're going to be physical. It's going to be a big game.”
Utah State Postgame Quotes
Head Coach Blake Anderson
Coach Anderson opening statement:
“This is the best we have played all year. The encouraging part is that the guys aren’t giving up on the process, and we’re getting better. I thought we played as good as you can play in the first half, and clearly the game started getting away from us in the third quarter, because their offense got going and took over the game, but these kids never quit. We played our best game of the season at the right time and gave ourselves the chance to be competitive. I thought Cooper Legas did a great job and prepared well. That team, if we play like that every week, we have a chance to win.”
On quarterback Cooper Legas’ play tonight:
“He did a great job and prepared the right way. I’m sure, like any quarterback, there are a few plays he would love to take back, but he gave us the chance to win tonight, and he will continue to get better.”
On feelings of tonight’s game being the last scheduled in this series:
“I mean, at the end of the day, you want to win. I think we put ourselves in a spot to win, but BYU made the plays, and we didn’t. I also think that even though we didn’t win, these boys are starting to gain confidence in what we can do, and I’m not sure we have had a lot of that up to this point. In that sense, we got better and can gain confidence from that.”
On adjustments going forward:
“We need to just stick to the process. This is a young team, and we have a ton of guys playing their first year of ball. The growing pains are taking a little longer than we want them to, but we will work the way we have always worked. Leadership is starting to emerge, confidence is starting to build and this team is starting to look like what we know they are capable of. The reason we played so well tonight is because this team has not given up on the process, and they have earned the right to play better by working daily. They will continue to do the little things right every day.”
Quarterback Cooper Legas
On talking with fellow Orem High School graduates and BYU players Kingsley Suamataia, Ethan Slade, Jakob Robinson and Puka Nacua:
“I love all of them, and it’s cool to compete against your friends. I still talk to Ethan and Puka every week. It was cool to be on the field at the same time as Ethan and Jakob, and I’ve thought about being in this moment my whole life, and for it to actually happen was cool.”
On Utah State’s strong start:
“It felt awesome to score the first touchdown, but we’ve got to find a way to keep it going the whole game. Usually we’re a strong second-half team, but we kind of flipped it this week. We need to find a way to put both halves together, and we’ll be solid.”
Defensive End Byron Vaughns
On the defense matching up against BYU:
“We’ve definitely grown. The young linebackers are talking with the older linebackers, so we have an understanding of what’s going on. We understand that BYU is a great team, and that when they got rolling, they were going to pick up the fast pace. We let them in the end zone and have a lot of work to do, but from week zero to now, we’ve definitely progressed from our running to the ball, hitting and tackling. We’re getting all-around better as a unit.”
On BYU’s second half offensive adjustments:
“They came with two tight ends and tried to match them with smaller guys on our defense. They brought out a lot of zone schemes and run-pass option plays that we didn’t practice over the week. They came out with the tempo that we didn’t see all first half and plays we didn’t see all first half. That was a good adjustment by [Aaron Roderick] for BYU. They saw that they couldn’t run the ball, so they passed, passed again and ran it a few times after.”