Brett Pyne | Posted: 11 Jan 2023 | Updated: 19 Jan 2023

BYU Football: 2022 Season Review

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2022 BYU football season review

Playing a schedule that included a school-record 10 bowl-bound teams, BYU football overcame strong competition and midseason adversity to navigate an 8-5 record culminated in being crowned champions of the 2022 New Mexico Bowl.

The final season of the 12-year Independence era (2011-22) provided fans numerous highlights as the Cougars took on their schedule full of winning programs. BYU achieved Power 5 wins over 2021 Big 12 Conference champion Baylor and Stanford of the Pac-12 Conference as well as victories over reigning Mountain West champion Utah State and regional rival Boise State before defeating the high-scoring SMU Mustangs of the American Conference in the New Mexico Bowl.

Among the highlights, BYU picked up its first top-10 home victory since defeating No. 1 Miami in 1990 when the Cougars triumphed over No. 9 Baylor in a thrilling 26-20 double-overtime victory in the rocking environment of a sold-out fall Saturday night in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

The season also marked the 50-year anniversary since the namesake of the stadium, Hall of Fame head coach LaVell Edwards, was hired to lead the BYU football program. In earning an 8-5 record, the Cougars achieved a winning season for the 43rd time since Edwards became head coach of the program in 1972. Only nine programs—Ohio State, Oklahoma, Alabama, Michigan, Penn State, Georgia, USC, Florida and Boise State—have produced more winning seasons in that timeframe. Prior to 1972, BYU had won just 173 games in 47 seasons. Since Edwards took the helm in 1972, BYU has won 438 games, which ranks No. 8 nationally.

Farewell to Independence

The 2022 season marked the final campaign as an independent program before joining the Big 12 in 2023. BYU played 155 games as an independent, with a record of 99-56 (.639). BYU’s 99 wins in the independence era (2011-2022) are more victories than Baylor, Iowa, Florida, Utah, Washington, Auburn and Texas among many others achieved in the same timeframe

BYU faced more than 70 different teams from 36 different states, representing every FBS conference as well as Notre Dame and other fellow independent programs.  BYU played 55 games against Power 5 conference opponents in that span, with 25 wins, including at least one against every Power 5 conference.

BYU traveled some 12,000 round-trip miles in 2022 in its final season as an independent. Playing a national schedule traveling coast to coast, the Cougars totaled more than 140,000 miles as an independent program over the past 12 seasons.

Offense

In 2022 the Cougars were led by one of college football’s best passers in Jaren Hall, ranking No. 12 in pass efficiency rating at 160.83 and No. 13 in passing touchdowns with 31 scoring strikes to only six interceptions. Hall also boasted three rushing touchdowns and one score as a receiver in 2022 to rank No. 13 in points responsible for per game (17.7) and No. 15 in total points responsible for overall (212). He ranked No. 19 in total offense nationally at 293.4 yards per game.

Hall totaled 3,171 passing yards and 350 yards on the ground to join some rare company at BYU. With his balanced overall production Hall became just the third BYU quarterback in school history, joining Steve Young and Brandon Doman, to throw for 3,000 yards and rush for 300 yards in the same season.

One of Hall’s favorite targets was wide receiver Puka Nacua, who led the team with 10 total touchdowns (5 rushing, 5 receiving) and had 48 receptions and 625 yards while rushing the ball 25 times for 209 yards in just nine games, missing several games due to injuries. Hall and Nacua both declared for the 2023 NFL Draft after the season.

Wide receiver Keanu Hill also became one of the most reliable options in the passing game, posting 36 receptions, 572 yards and a team-leading seven touchdown receptions. In addition to Nacua and Hill, BYU had four other players with at least 20 receptions on the season.  Freshman All-America honorable mention wideout Kody Epps was second on the team with 39 grabs before a season-ending injury, while Brayden Cosper had 30 catches for 363 years and freshman receiver Chase Roberts and sophomore tight end Isaac Rex both made 22 receptions.   Epps and Rex both had six touchdown catches, one behind Hill.

The running game featured California Bears transfer Christopher Brooks with a team-leading 817 rushing yards and six touchdowns, while Hall, a dual-threat, was second on the team with 350 rushing yards, followed by senior Lopini Katoa with 332 and freshman Miles Davis with 225. The offensive line not only powered the run game but also ranked No 1 (PFF, 92.0) in pass protection grades overall and ranked No. 10 in the NCAA statistics for the least sacks allowed at one per game on average. Led by 2022 All-American Blake Freeland, the offensive front was named College Football News All-Independent Offensive Line of the Year.

BYU’s offense overall ranked No. 5 for the fewest turnovers on the season, turning the ball over only 10 times in 13 games. The Cougars averaged 31.3 points per game while totaling 426.3 yards per game, including 249.7 yards through the air and 176.6 yards on the ground.

Defense

Sophomore linebacker Ben Bywater led the team in tackles for the second-straight season. He totaled 98 takedowns, with four tackles for loss and one sack, while joining fellow linebacker Max Tooley with a team-leading three interceptions. Both Bywater and Tooley returned a pick for a touchdown, with Bywater doing it in the bowl victory while Tooley scored on two of his three interceptions.

Defensive lineman Tyler Batty led the team with seven tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries while fellow lineman John Nelson added six tackles for loss and a team-high three sacks. Freshman All-America honorable mention safety Micah Harper came on strong after taking on a starting role during the season and finished second on the team with 62 tackles along with middle linebacker Keenan Pili. Corners Kaleb Hayes and Gabe Jeudy-Lally led the team with seven pass breakups while nickel back Jakob Robinson added five and an interception.

BYU’s defense had 20 different players miss games during the season due to injuries. The number of injuries contributed to 23 different Cougars starting on the defensive side of the ball, while 47 defensive players recorded a stat during action in 2022. The BYU defense allowed 408.1 yards per game, including 234.3 passing yards and 173.8 rushing yards, while opponents averaged 29.5 points per game in 2022. The Cougars defense finished the year strong, allowing a season-low 53 rushing yards at Stanford and holding the high-powered SMU offense ranked No. 11 in total offense and No. 12 in points scored to its second-lowest production of the season.

Special Teams

On special teams, BYU ranked No. 10 in the country in net punting with a 41.9 average. Punter Ryan Rehkow’s talents were on display each of his 40 punts during the season as he consistently delivered in the field position game for the Cougars. His 46.2 yards per punt average would have ranked No. 5 nationally had he had enough punts to qualify for the minimums required for the official NCAA rankings. He placed 16 kicks inside the opponents’ 20-yard line and booted 12 that traveled more than 50 yards, including a season-high 71-yarder.

Rehkow was named to the Associated Press All-Bowl team for averaging 58.8 yards per punt, including twice setting a New Mexico Bowl record with a 65-yarder followed later in the game with a 67-yarder. The BYU special teams captain was instrumental in flipping field position throughout the bowl game, with three punts over 60 yards and three downed inside the 20-yard line. 

Meanwhile, kicker Jake Oldroyd finished his BYU career atop the school’s record books. Oldroyd’s field goal in the bowl game moved him to No. 1 in total points scored at BYU (336) passing Mitch Payne (334) for the top BYU scorer of all-time. Oldroyd finished the bowl with six total points, giving 338 for his career to establish the new record. His field goal in the bowl was also his 50th of his career, only Owen Pochman (61) and Matt Payne (54) had more. In his career, Oldroyd also finished No. 1 in all-time PAT percentage (.979) and set the school record for consecutive field goals made (16 between 2020 and 2021).

Return specialist Hobbs Nyberg was a bright spot all year. He averaged 12.77 yards per punt return, which was the No. 6 average in the country (though not officially listed by the NCAA being below the minimum number of returns to qualify).

Weekly Rewind

Coming off back-to-back top-25 seasons under Kalani Sitake, the Cougars started strong in 2022 to solidify a place in the national polls with a 50-21 blowout win at South Florida in the opener to set up a top-25 matchup against Baylor in Provo the following week.    

The Cougars and Bears put together one of the top games of the year, a slugfest going to double-overtime before BYU outlasted Baylor with a defensive stand to earn the win, 26-20.

BYU fell to nationally ranked Oregon at Autzen Stadium but responded with back-to-back wins over Wyoming and in-state foe Utah State the following weeks.

In a unique matchup in Las Vegas, the Cougars came up short to Notre Dame in annual Shamrock Series for the Irish. BYU’s comeback effort ended in 28-20 defeat at Allegiant Stadium.

Injuries started to pile up for the Cougars over the next few weeks and BYU suffered three more consecutive defeats to Arkansas, Liberty and East Carolina, all bowl teams with two of the three running some of the most potent offenses in the country.

Trying to snap a four-game losing streak, the daunting task of taking on a good Boise State team on the blue turf was just what the Cougars needed. BYU put together one of its most complete games of the year, beating the Broncos 31-28 in Boise.

BYU’s biggest stars showed up in back-and-forth game against the Broncos, with Hall producing 377 passing yards and four total touchdowns while Nacua amassed 14 receptions, 157 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner, a toe-tapping acrobatic grab on fourth down in the corner of the end zone with 1:46 to go in the game. The Cougar defense held, and BYU came away with another signature win to get back on track.

The win was the spark to finish the regular season with three-straight victories, including a road win over Stanford to close the year and setup BYU’s matchup with the SMU Mustangs in the 2022 New Mexico Bowl.

The bowl was the second time the Cougars and Mustangs have met in a bowl matchup. The first contest between the two schools took place at the 1980 Holiday Bowl, when BYU completed one of the greatest comebacks in college football history by scoring 21 points over the final 2:33 of the game to beat the Mustangs 46-45.

Like the first time the two schools met in a bowl game, the 2022 New Mexico Bowl provided an exciting finish to the season. The BYU defense made the plays it needed all night against SMU and sealed the Cougars’ 24-23 win with a game-saving stop on a 2-point try from SMU by cornerback Jakob Robinson with only eight seconds remaining.

BYU scored two unanswered touchdowns to go up 24-10 in the third quarter before SMU came back in the fourth with two touchdowns of its own, including a 12-yard touchdown pass with eight seconds to play to set up Robinson’s heroics.

BYU earned its 17th bowl bid in the past 18 seasons in 2022. After hits bowl win, the Cougars finished the year receiving votes in the coaches poll and were ranked during five weeks of the season overall, including a ranking as high as No. 12 after the win over Baylor.

Recognizing Outstanding Play

In addition to the wins and losses on the field, BYU players and coaches were recognized for their achievements and talents throughout the year with nearly three dozen players receiving combined more than 140 different awards and honors. 

Offensive lineman Blake Freeland earned All-America honors for the second straight year from his left tackle position protecting quarterback Jaren Hall, who received more than a dozen different accolades in 2022. Freeland has received post-season All-America honors in 2022 from The Associated Press, Pro Football Focus and Phil Steele. 

Freeland’s counterpart at right tackle, Kingsley Suamataia, also earned All-America recognition, being named to the College Football News Freshman All-America Second Team in 2022. Two others, wide receiver Kody Epps and safety Micah Harper, also received CFN Freshman All-America honorable mention.

Eleven members of the team were named to the 2022 Phil Steele Independent All-Conference Teams for offense, defense and special teams. 

Five BYU offensive standouts were named Independent All-Conference First Team, including Freeland on the offensive line, quarterback Jaren Hall, tight end Isaac Rex, running back Chris Brooks and wide receiver Puka Nacua. Three additional Cougars were named to the second team, including wide receiver Kody Epps, offensive left guard Clark Barrington and offensive right tackle Kingsley Suamataia. 

On defense, linebacker Ben Bywater and safety Micah Harper were named to the Phil Steele Independent All-Conference Second Team, while Ryan Rehkow was named the All-Independent First Team punter. 

Rex was named to the Phil Steele Independent All-Conference First Team for the third time, having previously been honored in 2020 and 2021. Hall, Nacua, Freeland, Barrington and Rehkow were also repeat selections, having been named to one of the Phil Steele Independent All-Conference Teams in 2021.

Eight BYU football student-athletes earned 2022 Academic All-District by the College Sports Communicators for their excellence in the classroom in addition to the football field. Representing the Cougars on the Academic All-District Team were three repeat honorees—Ben Bywater, Ryan Rehkow, and Keenan Pili—joined by teammates Clark Barrington, Christopher Brooks, Talmage Gunther, Connor Pay and Gabe Summers. Bywater and Rehkow were both recognized as All-District last season, while Pili previously achieved the honor during the 2020 season.

A list of the various 2022 awards and honors are listed below.

Awards and Honors

OFFENSE

Offensive Line

  • No. 1 Pass Protection Team (Pro Football Focus, 92.0)
  • College Football News All-Independent Offensive Line of the Year

Clark Barrington | LG, 6-6, 305, Jr., Spokane, Washington

  • PFF All-Bowl Team
  • Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team
  • William V. Campbell Trophy Semifinalist
  • College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team
  • William Campbell Trophy Semifinalist
  • Rotary Lombardi Award Midseason Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-America First Team
  • Action Network 2022 Preseason All-America First Team
  • The Sporting News Preseason All-America Second Team
  • Lindy's Sports Preseason All-America Second Team
  • Athlon Sports Preseason All-America Third Team
  • Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List
  • Outland Trophy Watch List
  • Pro Football Network Preseason Top 100 College Football Players
  • Senior Bowl Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent First Team
  • Team Captain

Chris Brooks | RB, 6-1, 230, Sr., Oceanside, California

  • Hula Bowl invitee
  • Phil Steele All-Independent First Team
  • College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Second Team
  • College Football News All-Independent Second Team
  • Assistant Team Captain

Kody Epps | WR, 5-11, 185, Fr., Los Angeles, California

  • College Football News Freshman All-America honorable mention
  • Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team
  • College Football News All-Independent Second Team
  • College Football News Freshman Midseason All-America list

Blake Freeland | LT, 6-8, 305, Jr., Herriman, Utah

  • Senior Bowl invitee
  • Associated Press All-America Third Team
  • Pro Football Focus All-America Third Team
  • Phil Steele All-America honorable mention
  • College Football News All-Independent Offensive Lineman of the Year
  • Phil Steele All-Independent First Team
  • College Football News All-Independent First Team
  • Rotary Lombardi Award Midseason Watch List
  • The Athletic Preseason All-America Team
  • Pro Football Focus Preseason Top 100 College Football Players
  • Outland Trophy Watch List
  • Rotary Lombardi Award Watch List
  • Senior Bowl Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent First Team
  • Team Captain

Jaren Hall | QB, 6-1, 205, Jr., Spanish Fork, Utah

  • Senior Bowl invitee
  • College Football News All-Independent Offensive Player of the Year
  • College Football News All-Independent Offensive Quarterback of the Year
  • Phil Steele All-Independent First Team
  • College Football News All-Independent First Team
  • Official Davey O’Brien QB Class of 2022
  • Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award Semifinalist
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Top 25 Watch List
  • College Football Hall of Fame KIA Player of the Month (September)
  • Manning Award Stars of the Week (After Wyoming win)
  • Manning Award Stars of the Week (After Boise State win)
  • Manning Award Watch List
  • Maxwell Award Watch List
  • Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award Watch List
  • Davey O’Brien Award Watch List
  • Walter Camp Player of the Year Award Watch List
  • CFPA National Performer of the Year Award Watch List
  • Pro Football Network Preseason Top 100 College Football Players
  • Senior Bowl Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent First Team
  • Team Captain

Keanu Hill | WR, 6-4, 215, So., Bedford, Texas

  • College Football News All-Independent First Team
  • Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Week honorable mention (after Utah Tech win)
  • Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Week honorable mention (after Wyoming win)
  • Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award Watch List

Lopini Katoa | RB, 6-1, 210, Sr., American Fork, Utah

  • Assistant Team Captain

Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters | QB, 6-1, 200, Hau'ula, Hawai'i

  • New Mexico Bowl Offensive MVP

Puka Nacua | WR, 6-2, 205, Jr., Provo, Utah

  • Senior Bowl invitee
  • College Football News All-Independent Wide Receiver of the Year
  • Phil Steele All-Independent First Team
  • College Football News All-Independent First Team
  • Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List
  • Biletnikoff Award Preseason Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent First Team
  • Team Captain

Connor Pay | C, 6-5, 312, So., Highland, Utah

  • College Football News All-Independent First Team
  • College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team
  • Rimington Trophy Watch List
  • Assistant Team Captain

Isaac Rex | TE, 6-6, 250, So., San Clemente, California

  • Phil Steele All-Independent First Team
  • Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List
  • John Mackey Award Preseason Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent First Team
  • College Football News All-Independent Second Team

Gunner Romney | WR, 6-2, 195, Sr., Chandler, Arizona

  • Senior Bowl Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Second Team
  • Assistant Team Captain

Kingsley Suamataia | RT, 6-6, 325, Fr., Orem, Utah

  • The Athletic Freshman All-America Second Team
  • College Football News Freshman All-America Second Team
  • Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team
  • College Football News All-Independent First Team
  • College Football News Midseason Freshman All-America List

Joe Tukuafu | RG/C, 6-4, 300, Sr., Glendale, Utah

  • Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List

DEFENSE

Chaz Ah You | LB, 6-2, 222, Sr., Saratoga Springs, Utah

  • Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List 

Tyler Batty | DE, 6-5, 275, So., Payson, Utah

  • Wuerffel Trophy Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Second Team
  • Assistant Team Captain

Ben Bywater | LB, 6-3, 230, So., Salt Lake City, Utah

  • New Mexico Bowl Defensive Bowl MVP
  • Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team
  • Associated Press All-Bowl Team
  • College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team
  • Butkus Award Watch List
  • Lott Trophy Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent First Team
  • Assistant Team Captain

Lorenzo Fauatea | DL, 6-4, 310, Sr., West Valley City, Utah

  • Team Captain

Kaleb Hayes | CB, 6-0, 195, Sr., San Bernardino, California

  • Team Captain

Micah Harper | S, 5-10, 185, Fr., Chandler, Arizona

  • College Football News Freshman All-America honorable mention
  • Phil Steele All-Independent Second Team

Gabe Jeudy-Lally | CB, 6-2, 185, So., Austin, Texas

  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Second Team

Atunaisa Mahe | DT, 6-1, 310, Jr., West Jordan, Utah

  • Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List

D'Angelo Mandell | CB, 6-1, 192, Sr., San Diego, California

  • Assistant Team Captain

Malik Moore | S, 6-1, 195, Sr., San Diego, California

  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Second Team
  • Assistant Team Captain

Keenan Pili | LB, 6-3, 237, Jr., Provo, Utah

  • College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team
  • Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List
  • Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Second Team
  • Team Captain

Gabe Summers | DL, 6-2, 295, Jr., Saratoga Springs, Utah

  • College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team

Max Tooley | LB, 6-2, 215, Jr., Bountiful, Utah

  • College Football News All-Independent Second Team

Earl Tuioti-Mariner | DL, 6-4, 288, Sr., Topeka, Kansas

  • Polynesian College Football Player of the Year Award Watch List

Payton Wilgar | LB, 6-3, 235, Jr., St. George, Utah

  • Burlsworth Trophy Semifinalist
  • Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List
  • Butkus Award Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent First Team
  • Team Captain

SPECIAL TEAMS

Talmage Gunther | WR/Special Teams, 6-0, 195, So., Cedar Hills, Utah

  • College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team

Hobbs Nyberg | WR/Returner, 5-11, 195, So., St. George, Utah

  • College Football News All-Independent Second Team (punt returner)

Jake Oldroyd | PK, 6-1, 195, Jr., Southlake, Texas

  • Lou Groza Award Preseason Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent Second Team

Ryan Rehkow | P, 6-6, 232, So., Veradale, Washington

  • College Football News All-Independent Punter of the Year
  • Phil Steele All-Independent First Team
  • Associated Press All-Bowl Team
  • College Sports Communicators Academic All-District Team
  • Ray Guy Award Watch List
  • Phil Steele Preseason All-Independent First Team
  • College Football News All-Independent First Team
  • Assistant Team Captain

COACHES

Kalani Sitake | Head Coach

  • Polynesian Football Hall of Fame Finalist
  • Dodd Trophy Preseason Watch List

Fesi Sitake | Passing Game Coordinator/WR Coach

  • Broyles Award nominee


>>Select to view 2022 BYU season statistics reports  

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