PROVO — Although they are still a bruised and injury-riddled football team, the BYU Cougars could probably do without a bye this week after their confidence-building 28-25 win over then-No. 14 Boise State late Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

That’s not just because a bye could halt the momentum they gained by beating a second ranked opponent in the same season at home for the first time in school history. It’s also because they have generally played poorly after bye weeks in coach Kalani Sitake’s four-year tenure, going 1-3 since 2016 when they have had an extra week to prepare.

Look no further than two weeks ago, when BYU came off a bye and fell 27-23 to a 3-5 South Florida team that was crushed 35-3 by Navy.

BYU’s results (1-3) after bye weeks under Kalani Sitake

Nov. 5, 2016 — Won at Cincinnati, 20-3

Sept. 29, 2017 — Lost at Utah State, 40-24

Oct. 27, 2018 — Lost to Northern Illinois, 7-6

Oct. 12, 2019 — Lost at South Florida, 27-23

Nov. 2 , 2019 — At Utah State (???)

And guess who’s up next?

That would be those dangerous Utah State Aggies, the pesky instate foe that has thoroughly thrashed the Cougars the past two matchups, 45-20 last year in Provo and 40-24 two years ago in Logan. Speaking of that 2017 contest at Maverik Stadium in which the Cougars finished the humiliating defeat with third-string quarterback Koy Detmer Jr. handing out interceptions like Halloween candy, this year’s rivalry game (Nov. 2) at the 25,500-seat venue where the Aggies are undefeated will also feature a BYU backup quarterback.

It was announced Monday that the game will kick off at 8 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2. Utah State (4-2) ripped Nevada 36-10 on Saturday and plays at Air Force this Saturday in another made-for-TV late-night special.

BYU (3-4) will enter the Aggies’ blackout game with either second-string QB Jaren Hall or third-stringer Baylor Romney, a redshirt freshman who made a strong debut by throwing for 221 yards and two touchdowns in the upset of Boise State, which dropped to No. 22 in the AP Top 25 on Sunday after the loss that seriously harmed its hopes of making it to a New Year’s Six bowl game.

Sitake said Hall didn’t clear concussion protocol prior to the BSU game and his status is “kind of a day-to-day thing” moving forward. But given that the redshirt freshman warmed up before the game, it seems likely he will be ready to play in 12 days. Then the coaches will have a decision to make — do they start Hall or Romney against the Aggies?

It is that age-old dilemma for coaches: Does a starter lose his job through injury? Hall was playing well in his first start before sustaining the concussion at USF, throwing for 148 yards and rushing for 83 with no turnovers.

Season starter Zach Wilson is at least a month away from returning from a fractured thumb injury. Wilson’s passer efficiency rating in his first career start, against Hawaii last year, was 167.5. Hall’s was 133.6 at USF and Romney’s was 154.5 against Boise State.

Has BYU ever had a more talented collection of quarterbacks? Even fourth-stringer Joe Critchlow (2-1 as a starter) is capable of leading the team, Sitake said.

“We will see how it goes,” the coach said, addressing a question regarding Hall’s expected return. “Competition is really good for us and we will see which player is going to be the best at a lot of positions (not just quarterback).”

Sitake said Romney played well, displayed a lot of composure and poise in the pocket, made defenders miss a few times while keeping his eyes downfield, and didn’t turn the ball over. He joined Ty Detmer, Taysom Hill, Tanner Mangum, Critchlow and Wilson as the only freshmen to win their first start at BYU. 

“That’s something special,” Sitake said. “I give a lot of credit to coach (Jeff) Grimes and Aaron Roderick for getting him in a position where he was comfortable and using his strengths. You also have to give Baylor a lot of credit for being prepared.”

Romney credited the coaches and Wilson and Hall for getting him ready; He learned Wednesday night that he would be the man.

“It was good to get some reps with the ones in practice and get a little chemistry down before we played the game,” he said of his first start since his senior year at Franklin High in El Paso, Texas, in 2014.

Remarkably, Romney’s performance came behind a banged-up offensive line and without starting running back Emmanuel Esukpa, out with a toe injury.

Freshmen Blake Freeland and Clark Barrington filled in for injured starters Tristen Hoge and Keanu Saleapaga and Chandon Herring replaced Kieffer Longson, who is out for a few more weeks with a foot injury. Sitake hopes Esukpa, Hoge and Saleapaga can return for the USU game; Senior left tackle Thomas Shoaf is out for the season with a lower leg injury and his career at BYU is likely over.

Starting linebacker Kavika Fonua left the game with an undisclosed injury and had a patch over his eye while watching his replacement, former running back Tyler Allgeier, make a game-high nine tackles.

“The fact that we are independent means that we have to be ready and we are going to play some tough teams, ranked teams, and we are going to have to check into our depth quite a bit,” Sitake said. “So yeah, that is what we are going to focus on. We have been doing it, but the emphasis is even stronger now.”

Sitake said the Cougars worked hard during their bye week in late September and plan on the same type of commitment this week.

“A week off just means that we are going to be off on Saturday,” he said. “We are going to work hard this week and be ready for the Aggies when we go up to Logan. … For us, the mindset has to be that every team we are going against is a great team and we have to have a chip on our shoulder. Our backs are against the wall and we respond better in that situation. That’s what we are going to try to get done.”

Cougars on the air

BYU (3-4) at Utah State (4-2, pending Saturday at AFA)

At Maverik Stadium, Logan

Nov. 2, 8 p.m.


Radio: KSL 1160 AM, 102.7 FM