LOGAN — Another year, another quarterback injury for the BYU football team when facing Utah State.
This time, however, it didn’t matter.
Cougar freshman quarterback Jaren Hall helped BYU build a big first-half lead with a stellar performance (12-of-16 passing for 214 yards, seven carries for 54 yards and two touchdowns) but left the game at the end of the first half with an injury.
But Cougar freshman quarterback Baylor Romney — who barely lost the starting job after tight competition in practice — came in and proved to be nearly as effective (10-for-16 passing for 191 yards with two touchdowns and one interception).
Those performances allowed the BYU offense to have its most productive game of the season and gave the Cougars a surprisingly easy 42-14 win over the Aggies.
The victory ended BYU’s two-game losing streak to Utah State, brought the Cougars back to .500 on the season (4-4) and resulted in the Old Wagon Wheel trophy coming back to Provo.
BYU wracked up 639 total yards of offense and never trailed, although a pair of Cougar red-zone turnovers kept the outcome in doubt longer than it probably needed to be.
The visitors jumped out in front early, stopping the Utah State offense on its first possession and then Hall drove BYU 93 yards in 11 plays to score on senior wide receiver Aleva Hifo’s 6-yard touchdown run on a fly sweep.
The Cougar defense stripped the ball on the next Aggie drive and BYU roared back down the field with a 36-yard pass from Hall to sophomore wide receiver Dax Milne that put the visitors at USU’s 6-yard line.
But Cougar senior running back Emmanuel Esukpa had the ball knocked free as he tried to push into the end zone and Utah State recovered to end the BYU threat.
The Aggies turned that momentum into a solid drive of their own, going 86 yards in seven plays to tie the game on a 26-yard TD pass from quarterback Jordan Love to wide receiver Siaosi Mariner.
The Cougar defense bounced back from that showing to get a key interception as junior linebacker Kavika Fonua intercepted a Love pass on Utah State’s next drive, setting BYU up with great field position at the Aggie 16-yard line.
Hall needed just one play to cover the distance, keeping the ball on an option play and plunging into the end zone to give the Cougars a lead they would never relinquish.
BYU added to the lead after the Cougar defense came up with another interception after a long drive by the home team, this time with freshman linebacker Payton Wilgar.
The Hall-led BYU offense surged back on the attack with Hall finishing the drive on a 6-yard scoring run on a quarterback draw.
On the play, however, Hall took another shot to the head and would not return to the game.
Utah State kept the game close by scoring a second touchdown on a 1-yard run by running back Gerold Bright right before halftime.
If the Aggies were hoping the Cougar offense would slow down under the direction of Romney, they quickly found out that wouldn’t be the case.
Romney calmly stepped in to start the quarter and led BYU on a 7-play, 75-yard drive with a pass to senior Micah Simon covering the final 11 yards as the Cougars doubled the lead.
That would be just the beginning for Romney, who did thrown an interception in the end zone but would come back to have the first brother-to-brother TD pass. He threw a wide-receiver screen to his brother, sophomore wide receiver Gunner Romney for a 1-yard score.
BYU added a final touchdown when it tied the longest drive in Cougar history with a 99-yard possession.
BYU sophomore running back Lopini Katoa gained 70 of those yards on a screen pass but was hauled down short of the end zone. He came in on third down to finish the drive with a 6-yard scoring run.
The Cougar defense had an excellent second half, getting a turnover on downs and a fumble recovery as well as forcing a couple of punts to allow the BYU offense to pull away.
The Cougars now turn their attention to facing a high-scoring Liberty team, who will come to Provo on Nov. 8.