Two questions had to be running through the minds of BYU football fans as the third quarter ended in Saturday night’s battle against No. 13/14 Boise State in Provo:
1. Is this really happening?
2. Can these Cougars hang on?
The answer to both questions, unbelievable as it might seem, turned out to be yes -- but just barely.
BYU put together a phenomenal third quarter, getting in the end zone three times to build a shocking 28-10 lead over the Broncos -- but the game was far from over.
Boise State tried to rally but the Cougars never stopped making plays and secured the stunning 28-25 upset, handing the Broncos their first loss of the season.
The most jaw-dropping 15 minutes of football for BYU of the 2019 season started when the Cougars got the ball to start the second half.
Led by freshman quarterback Baylor Romney -- who was making his first start and had only thrown 10 passes in the entire season prior to Saturday’s game -- calmly completed a couple of passes to get BYU into Boise State territory.
Then freshman running back Sione Finau (the No. 4 running back for the Cougars coming into the season) found a big hole off the left side and burst through it, sprinting 46 yards for the touchdown to give the Cougars the lead.
But BYU was just getting started.
The Cougars gave up a lot of yards on the ensuing Boise State drive but forced the Broncos into a field goal attempt that sailed wide.
BYU then marched back down the field but faced a fourth-and-1 from the BSU 27-yard line.
Eschewing the long field goal attempt, the Cougars lined up to go for it. Romney faked a handoff that got all of the Bronco defenders to bite, then lofted a soft touch-pass to a wide-open Matt Bushman and the junior tight end walked into the end zone to increase the BYU advantage.
It was the Cougar defense that made the next big play as BYU freshman linebacker Jackson Kaufusi stepped in front of a Boise State pass and picked it off, giving the home team great field position.
The Cougars needed just two plays to turn it into points, delving into the bag of tricks to score.
BYU ran the double-reverse flea-flicker with the ball ending back in Romney’s hands.
He spotted Bushman running all by himself down the left sideline and fired a strike that ended up being a 39-yard touchdown.
With an 18-point lead heading into the final frame, the Cougars appeared to be in great shape.
But every point proved to be necessary as Boise State mounted a furious fourth-quarter comeback.
The Broncos scored on touchdown passes on two consecutive possessions, driving 81 yards and 79 yards to cut the BYU advantage to just a field goal.
With the game on the line, the Cougars had a third down needing less than a yard for a first but the quarterback sneak by Romney got thrown back.
When the chains were stretched out, though, BYU was ruled to get just enough for the first down by the very nose of the football.
Boise State challenged the ruling and somehow the officials overturned the original spot by six inches, forcing the Cougars to go for it -- and senior Austin Kafentzis got the yardage necessary to save the victory by the narrowest of margins.
All of the excitement of the second half was a far cry from the first half, which was as inconsistent as the weather in Provo.
Boise State started the game with a nine-play, 70-yard drive where it appeared the Broncos could do just about whatever they wanted to do.
As BSU wide receiver CT Thomas strolled into the end zone on an end-around for the 12-yard score, BYU fans had to be thinking this was going to be a long night.
But Baylor Romney found a big answer as he directed the Cougars on one of their best drives of the season, including three big third-down conversions.
On a third-and-7, Baylor Romney hit senior wide receiver Talon Shumway for a 22-yard gain. On a third-and-5, he found senior Aleva Hifo for nine yards. He then connected with Shumway again on third-and-12 for a 13-yard gain to get the Cougars inside the Bronco 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Lopini Katoa squirted through a hole off the left side for a 4-yard touchdown to tie the score.
BYU had a chance to truly seize the momentum after junior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi made a lunging interception to give the Cougars great field position.
Baylor Romney directed another good drive until BYU again had first-and-goal at the Boise State 6-yard line.
But then the old Cougar demons of poor-execution returned.
A run lost three yards, followed by Baylor Romney short-hopping a pass to a wide-open Dax Milne in the corner of the end zone.
BYU dialed up a quarterback draw and Baylor Romney took the ball across the goal line -- only to have the play called back due to a holding call.
After a failed run, the Cougars missed another field goal and didn’t get any points out of the once-promising possession.
Both defenses then stood tall for most of the rest of the half, not allowing the opposing offenses to get in rhythm.
Boise State did make one final push at the end of the first half, driving to the BYU 20-yard line before being forced to settle for a 38-yard field goal to go to the locker room with the 10-7 lead.
Then the Cougars flipped the script in the third quarter to seize the advantage.