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Highlights, key plays and photos from BYU’s 27-23 loss to South Florida

Starting quarterback Jaren Hall escapes pressure from the USF defense in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.
Starting quarterback Jaren Hall escapes pressure from the USF defense in Tampa, Florida on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019.
Robert W. Grover, For the Deseret News

TAMPA, Fla. — BYU’s struggles continued to mount Saturday, as the Cougars fell 27-23 to South Florida at Raymond James Stadium.

Down to its third-string quarterback, Baylor Romney, the Cougars fell to 2-4 on their third straight loss as Romney’s pass on the final play was knocked to the ground in the end zone.

The Bulls took their first lead of the game with 7:37 to play on a Jordan Cronkrite 3-yard run to cap a 78-yard touchdown drive.

BYU was then forced to play Romney to try to complete the comeback, as Romney entered for an injured Jaren Hall following USF’s go-ahead score. Hall, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 148 yards and a touchdown to go with a team-high 83 yards rushing and another score, was making his first start in relief of original starter Zach Wilson.

Romney got the Cougars down inside the USF 10, but BYU failed to convert on a fourth down, though the Cougars — with three timeouts — got the ball back with 1:09 to play.

BYU reached the USF 12 before a sack forced the Cougars into a fourth down at the Bulls 20. Romney’s last-gasp pass was then knocked away, giving USF (3-3) the win.

Here are three takeaways that defined this game.

Rushing defense struggles again

BYU’s much-maligned defense again gave up chunks of yardage on the ground, this time to the tune of 243 rushing on 44 carries for USF.

The Bulls were led by Jordan Cronkrite, who had 158 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. His two touchdowns came in the second half, including the game-winning 3-yard run with 7:37 to play.

The go-ahead drive for South Florida was nine plays — all runs — and covered 78 yards, including a 41-yard run from Cronkrite.

Hall shows off his rushing skills

The dual-threat BYU quarterback Hall made several plays with his legs, highlighted by his 29-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to build the Cougars’ lead to 23-14.

That was set up by a 32-yard Hall run earlier in the drive that got BYU into USF territory. Hall’s 83 rushing yards came on 16 carries, a 5.2 per-carry average.

Failing to finish

Even with some of the offensive successes — BYU was 7 of 7 on third-and-short situations — the Cougars struggled to finish. On eight drives inside the USF 35-yard line, the Cougars came away with just two touchdowns.

On those eight drives, BYU also had three first-half field goals and a missed field goal in the fourth quarter, as well as Romney’s two late drives with the Cougars trailing that both ended with a turnover on downs.

Scoring summary: USF 27, BYU 23

First quarter

BYU, Jake Oldroyd 51-yard field goal (10:04)

Second quarter

BYU, Dax Milne 35-yard pass from Jaren Hall (14:29), Jake Oldroyd kick

BYU, Jake Oldroyd 22-yard field goal (9:07)

USF, Mitch Wilcox 39-yard pass from Jordan McCloud (6:01), Coby Weiss kick

BYU, Jake Oldroyd 28-yard field goal (0:36)

Third quarter

USF, Jordan Cronkrite 1-yard run (9:44), Coby Weiss kick

BYU, Jaren Hall 29-yard run (7:50), Jake Oldroyd kick

Fourth quarter

USF, Jordan McCloud 2-yard run (14:57), Coby Weiss kick

USF, Jordan Cronkrite 3-yard run (7:37), extra-point attempt no good