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Heart-stopping: BYU football rallies for win at USC to get 10th victory

By Jared Lloyd - | Nov 28, 2021
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BYU junior defensive back Kaleb Hayes celebrates after making a stop during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU junior defensive back Kaleb Hayes makes a fourth-down stop during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU freshman running back Jackson McChesney scores a touchdown during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU tight end Dallin Holker runs the ball during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU fans celebrate after the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU sophomore running back Tyler Allgeier runs the ball upfield during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall throws a pass during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU fullback Masen Wake runs the ball upfield during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU football players take the field before the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU sophomore wide receiver Puka Nacua scores a touchdown during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU sophomore wide receiver Puka Nacua celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU sophomore running back Tyler Allgeier scores a touchdown during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU quarterback Jaren Hall poses for a photo with Cosmo and fans after the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)

A bow, a eye-widening expression of relief and an unexpected finisher.

It was a wild night in Los Angeles as the No. 14-ranked BYU football team needed a number of heroic performances in a nail-biting battle at USC Saturday night but the Cougars hung on to get the 35-31 win over the Trojans.

“Every win is special,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “It was a tight one, but I’m really happy we got the win. Knowing that it is the end of the regular season and we had some guys banged up so we had to test our depth, I’m really proud of the players, coaches and everyone involved.”

The biggest was the one came with less than a minute to play and USC threatening to snatch the lead away as the Trojan offense had the ball at the Cougar 15-yard line.

But BYU’s defense had allowed just four yards on three plays, forcing USC into a fourth-and-6 with the game on the line.

Trojan freshman quarterback Jaxson Dart — a former Roy and Corner Canyon star — dropped back and fired to where sophomore wide receiver Gary Bryant Jr. was slicing across the field on a slant route.

Bryant made the catch but was immediately tackled by BYU junior defensive back Kaleb Hayes, pulling him to the turf a yard short of the first down to secure the victory for the Cougars.

“Kaleb was awesome,” Sitake said. “He made some great decisions in the way that he was covering.”

Hayes stood up and, as part of the celebration, bowed toward the numerous BYU fans in attendance.

The game-saving tackle might not have been necessary if not for the tough, tackle-breaking running of an unexpected contributor.

BYU relied heavily on star sophomore running back Tyler Allgeier throughout the game and he responded, finishing with 111 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries.

But he also repeatedly got hammered and, when Allgeier wasn’t in condition to carry the ball, former Lone Peak star Jackson McChesney got the call.

The BYU freshman, who had only had 11 carries all season, ran the ball three straight times when the Cougars got the ball into the USC red zone.

He had rushes of three yards, seven yards and seven yards, including carrying defenders into the end zone to put BYU on top.

“Jackson was able to be fresh,” Sitake said. “He showed up, man. He broke some tackles and played really, really well.”

Of course, McChesney wouldn’t have had a chance to score that TD if not for a key moment earlier in the drive.

On a second-and-3 from the Cougar 45-yard line, Allgeier found a nice hole and rumbled into the Trojan secondary. When the USC defenders were able to finally stop his momentum eight yards down the field, they also managed to knock the ball free.

That would’ve been potentially a game-ending fumble but fortunately BYU sophomore tight end Dallin Holker spotted the ball, scooped it up just before a Trojan defender jumped on it, and then raced for another 22 yards to set up McChesney’s heroics.

When Holker walked back to the huddle, the TV cameras caught him giving his teammates a eye-widening look as an expression of relief.

“I came up the middle to lead block for him and nobody was really there,” Holker told the BYU Sports Network after the game. “Tyler was in the pile, so I came over to help push the pile and then the ball just came flying out. It literally just came right down next to my feet, so I just scooped it up. I started running and I could hear their sideline yelling that the play was still going. Man, it was crazy.”

That trio of key performances allowed the Cougars to escape with the win despite having two more turnovers (both interceptions thrown by BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall) and only outgaining USC by seven yards (465-458).

The win meant BYU finished the regular season with a 10-2 record and completed a perfect 5-0 mark against Pac-12 opponents.

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