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BYU football notes: More trick play magic sparked Cougar comeback

By Jared Lloyd - | Sep 17, 2023

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU senior running back Deion Smith celebrates scoring a touchdown during the game against Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, on Saturday, Sept. 17, 2023.

Wisconsin knows the feeling. So does Baylor.

Arkansas isn’t the first team BYU has fooled with a double-pass trick play.

In 2018 on the road against the No. 6 Badgers, Cougar wide receiver Aleva Hifo took a backwards pass from quarterback Tanner Mangum, then lofted a 31-yard throw to wide receiver Moroni Laulu-Pututau for the score.

In 2022 in Provo against No. 9-ranked Bears, it was BYU quarterback Jaren Hall who threw the ball back to wide receiver Chase Roberts, who then returned the favor.

He got the ball back to Hall who followed a convoy of blockers for the 22-yard TD.

Cougar offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick regularly dials up a little “trickeration” as part of his game plan and when it works, it can be game-changing.

That was the case Saturday night at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas, as BYU found itself down 14-0 in the first quarter and needing a spark.

A mediocre Razorback punt gave the Cougars good field position and a pass from BYU senior quarterback Kedon Slovis to junior tight end Isaac Rex set the visitors up with a first down at the Arkansas 37-yard line.

That was when Roderick decided it was time to mix things up a little bit.

The play that got called wasn’t a surprise to Slovis, who said the team was ready.

“We put it in this week,” Slovis said. “It looked really good in practice. Every time we ran it, it was really clean. We always have a few in the bag. I think we knew it was going to get called because of how well we did in practice.”

Slovis took the snap and threw a backwards pass to freshman wide receiver Parker Kingston, who played quarterback at Roy High.

“It was surreal,” Kingston said. “I didn’t know we were going to call that play so early in the game. But I knew if we executed it like we should, it would be a touchdown.”

That was exactly what happened as the lefty Kingston launched a deep pass back to the other side of the field where Cougar senior running back Deion Smith was standing all alone at the 6-yard line.

Since the nearest Arkansas defender was still nearly 10 yards away, it was a simple matter of just jogging into the end zone to get BYU on the board.

While that was one of many big plays in the game, getting the trick play to work got the Cougars some much-needed momentum when the Razorbacks seemed to be firmly in control.

Later in the game, Kingston also scored his first career TD on a 20-yard catch and run screen pass in the third quarter, becoming just the seventh BYU player to throw and catch a touchdown in the same game.

A little respect

BYU got three votes in the weekly Associated Press Top 25 poll on Sunday (putting the Cougars at 35th in the country) while it got one vote in the US LBM Coaches Poll (making them tied for 45th).

With a slate of Big 12 games on deck, the Cougars should have plenty of opportunities to move up if they can find ways to keep winning.

Get points, not just yards

Anyone just looking at the stat sheet probably would come to the conclusion that BYU lost to Arkansas.

The Cougars were outgained by the Razorbacks in total offense (424-281), passing (247-204) and rushing (177-77), as well as outdone on first downs (21-17), tackles for loss (9-6), total plays (74-57) and time of possession (33:15-24:50).

But there were some positives on the BYU side as well as the Cougars won the turnover battle (2-1), had more sacks (4-3) and were better on third-down conversions (4-13 to 2-13). Arkansas also committed 14 penalties for 125 yards to BYU’s seven penalties for 45 yards.

And, of course, there were the only numbers that really mattered, the ones on the scoreboard.

Coming from behind

While the Cougars have some amazing comebacks in their history, BYU has had very limited success under head coach Kalani Sitake when getting down.

Prior to Saturday’s win, the biggest Cougar rally under Sitake was when BYU overcame a 12-point deficit at Houston in 2020 when the Cougars trailed 26-14 but won 43-26.

Against the Razorbacks, BYU trailed by 14 points in the first quarter and by 10 points in the second half but came back to win.

Not bad in SEC country

With the win, BYU is now 4-3 on the road against SEC Teams, with wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and Arkansas.

Overall, the Cougars are 5-7 against current SEC teams.

Extra points

BYU won the toss and deferred to the second half. The Cougars are now 2-1 on coin tosses in 2023 … The BYU alumni flags were carried onto the field by Daniel Marquardt (DL, 2001-05) and Vincent Xanthos (OL, 2001-03), while the team flag was carried by Raider Damuni (S), The Sione Veikoso Tribute flag was carried by Logan Lutui (DE) … BYU defensive tackle and Arkansas native Caden Haws also carried a special flag for Arkansas Razorback football alums Ryan Mallett and Alex Collins who passed away and presented it to the Arkansas team in pregame … Attendance at the game was 74,821, which is the eighth largest at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.


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