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Punch out!: Titanic plays propel No. 23 BYU football to win over No. 19 Arizona State

By Jared Lloyd - | Sep 19, 2021
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BYU junior wide receiver Gunner Romney makes a diving catch during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU football fans cheer on their team during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior wide receiver Neil Pau'u gets tackled during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU football fans cheer on their team during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)
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BYU junior running back Tyler Allgeier celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)
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BYU football fans cheer on their team during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU fullback Masen Wake gets tackled near the goal line during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU football fans cheer on their team during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU football fans cheer on their team during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall gets tackled during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior running back Tyler Allgeier gets tackled during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior defensive back D'Angelo Mandell attempts to tackle a ball carrier during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU sophomore tight end Dallin Holker gets tackled during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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A BYU ball carrier runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU football fans cheer on their team during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior wide receiver Neil Pau'u gets tackled during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU defenders attempt to block a kick during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior running back Lopini Katoa runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior running back Tyler Allgeier runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior running back Lopini Katoa runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior running back Lopini Katoa runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior running back Lopini Katoa runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU junior running back Lopini Katoa runs the ball during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)
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BYU freshman tight end Isaac Rex catches a touchdown pass during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU football fans cheer on their team during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)
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BYU junior running back Tyler Allgeier scores a touchdown during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)
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BYU junior running back Tyler Allgeier celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the 27-17 Cougar win over Arizona State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

One huge punch … one clutch throw … and one REALLY loud crowd.

Those were three keys for the No. 23-ranked BYU football team Saturday night as the Cougars knocked off No. 19 Arizona State, 27-17, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.

“It was a lot of fun,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said. “I think we could have done some things to help ourselves out a little bit and not make it feel like we were having a heart attack at the end. We made a lot of people nervous and we need to find ways to not make so many mistakes. I give a lot of credit to ASU. You can tell they have a lot of speed, defensively and offensively. We’re fortunate that we were able to make a few more plays and get a few turnovers. We know that we made mistakes and that we can play better. We’re looking forward to getting better. We’re going against some really good teams and I’m proud of the way our guys played and I’m proud of the outcome.”

The story could’ve been very, very different if not for junior running back Tyler Allgeier, sophomore backup quarterback Baylor Romney and the boisterous 61,570 fans in the stands.

The Punch

Start with what might always be known to Cougar fans as “The Punch” or “The Roundhouse.”

With the Cougars clinging to a 21-17 lead late in the third quarter, it looked like disaster had struck.

BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall, while in the grasp of a Sun Devil defender, had tossed an ill-advised pass that was snagged out of the air by ASU senior linebacker Merlin Robertson.

There was no one between Robertson and the end zone, and he took off with his sights set on the pick-6 to give his team the lead.

BYU junior running back Tyler Allgeier was blocking in the backfield, so he took off in hot pursuit, catching up to Robertson near the BYU 20-yard line.

“I just wanted to catch up to him and get him,” Allgeier said. “Thankfully it was successful. I was just trying to do my part. Anyone would have done it and I just happened to be the one who did it.”

Instead of just tackling Robertson or pushing him out of bounds, Allgeier — a former linebacker who has the nickname “Psycho T” — leapt in the air and swung down with all his might on the ball, popping it loose from Robertson’s grip.

“Tyler had an all-out effort showing how much he loves this team and loves this game,” Hall said. “It’s one of the greatest plays I’ve ever seen — if not the greatest play I’ve ever seen, so kudos to him. He really saved that game. Tyler is the player of the game in my mind.”

Just as important as Allgeier second career forced fumble (he had another as a linebacker against Washington in 2019) was the fact that Hall hadn’t given up on the play after his mistake. He also chased down Robertson and thus was in position to gather in the fumble and give BYU the ball back at their own 15-yard line.

“I don’t mind him being a good example of what our team is all about,” Sitake said. “You just don’t quit, even if it looks bad. All it takes is someone trying. Him making the tackle would’ve been a key play for us but him going in there and poking the ball out — I gave him the game ball because that’s what it is all about. Those type of plays help you win games.”

Allgeier said he just wanted to make a play but decided to do something he had never done. His leap and monster roundhouse punch to force the fumble turned into a highlight-reel moment that will likely be replayed millions of times.

“It came out of nowhere,” Allgeier said. “I decided to try something new and it ended up working.”

BYU sophomore linebacker Max Tooley — who had an interception himself — gave Allgeier high marks for his ball-hawking form.

“That was a 200 in football IQ,” Tooley said. “Seeing the interception was a dagger in the heart. To watch Tyler, his instincts, his awareness, channeling his linebacker days, I still think he could be a first-round linebacker if he was still at that position. That was a huge game-changer, a huge momentum shifter and ultimately one of the biggest plays that lead to us winning the game.”

But even though the Sun Devils were forced to regroup, they rallied to keep BYU from scoring on the ensuing drive and got the ball back with another chance to take the lead.

That was when the next key factor came into play.

The Noise

Thanks to another fantastic punt by Cougar freshman punter Ryan Rehkow (who averaged more than 50 yards per punt and blasted an 83-yarder earlier in the game, setting a new school record), Arizona State was backed up at the BYU 5-yard line.

The Sun Devils were also on the same end of the field as the BYU ROC student section and they, along with the rest of the Cougar supporters, set up a deafening roar.

It was so loud that Arizona State had four false start penalties on that drive alone, pushing the ball back and forcing the visitors to attempt to convert on third-and-long.

“The difference between playing second and third down-and-10 versus playing second and third down-and-20 or 25 towards the end, those are some of the most important plays,” Tooley said. “It makes coverage so much easier because you can keep everything in front of you and you have so much field to work with. All credit to the ROC. they were monstrous tonight. They brought the energy and caused a lot of the penalties their offense had.”

BYU ended up getting the ball back, with Allgeier and junior running back Lopini Katoa churning out tough yards on the ground.

A run by Hall gave the Cougars a first-and-goal at the ASU 4-yard line but he landed hard and had to leave the game. That set up the drama of the final key play.

The Pass

BYU had a pair of run plays get a single yard but chewed up a bunch of clock. With 1:25 left in the game, the Cougars had to make a decision about how aggressive to be on third-and-goal from the 3-yard line with Romney taking his third snap of the game.

“We trust Baylor,” Sitake said. “I think a lot of people thought we were just going to run the ball, which is why I love what Roderick did to give Baylor a shot and help us win the game.”

Sitake and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick rolled the dice with an aggressive playcall, having Romney fake the handoff and roll out.

“It was supposed to be a bootleg to the right,” BYU freshman tight end Isaac Rex said. “I was the second option, with the first option being Baylor running it in.”

Romney stumbled coming out of the fake handoff, then had a couple of ASU players in his face. Rex said Romney was only supposed to throw the ball if it was wide open — but Romney trusts himself.

He lofted it up to where Rex was in the back of the end zone, behind a defender. Rex hauled it in to give the Cougars the critical 10-point lead and virtually secure the win.

“It was kind of funny how he just chucked it up there but he threw a perfect pass,” Rex said. “It was right over the defender’s head and was a really catchable ball. It was awesome to see Baylor trust me and throw a really good ball.”

With the win, BYU improved to 3-0 on the season and defeated ranked opponents in consecutive weeks for the first time in program history (the Cougars beat No. 21-ranked Utah, 26-17, last week).

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