Who will be BYU football’s starting quarterback for No. 10 Cougars vs. Boise State?
Will it be opening-game starter Jaren Hall, or USU game starter Baylor Romney, or freshman Jacob Conover? Coach Kalani Sitake isn’t ruling out any of the three
The weekend brought a few more revelations about the BYU football team’s future.
After throttling Utah State 34-20 Friday night, BYU announced Saturday that it will wear all-navy blue uniforms for Saturday’s showdown against rival Boise State, complete with navy blue helmets for the first time since 2004.
The game will kick off at 1:30 p.m., be televised nationally by ABC, and will mark the first time the Cougars (5-0) and Broncos (2-3) have played in the daytime in any of their 12 matchups. Boise State leads the series 7-4, but BYU has won the last two contests — including last year’s 51-17 beatdown on the blue turf in Boise, Idaho.
BYU jumped from No. 13 to No. 10 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll on Sunday, and from No. 15 to No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches poll.
“Jaren is close (to playing). He practiced, but we just didn’t feel like he was good enough yet. We felt like Baylor had a better week of practice and so we will just feel it out and figure out what is best for the player, No. 1, and then what is right for our team.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake
So now attention turns to the biggest question surrounding Saturday’s game, at least from the Cougars’ perspective: Who will start at quarterback for BYU?
Jaren Hall, who won the three-way starting quarterback derby in fall camp, hasn’t played since suffering bruised ribs in the final minutes of the 27-17 win over now No. 22-ranked Arizona State on Sept. 18, and is the obvious choice if he’s healthy.
Hall wanted to play against the Aggies, just as he wanted to play against South Florida on Sept. 25, but was held out because the team’s medical staff didn’t think he was quite ready.
“Jaren is close (to playing),” coach Kalani Sitake said Friday night after Baylor Romney and Jacob Conover played a half each in the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel. “He practiced, but we just didn’t feel like he was good enough yet. We felt like Baylor had a better week of practice and so we will just feel it out and figure out what is best for the player, No. 1, and then what is right for our team.”
Romney watched freshman Conover close out the Aggies in the second half after completing 15 of 19 passes for 187 yards and a TD in the first half. He took a clean hit from USU linebacker Justin Rice while attempting his final throw of the first half in which his head smacked hard against the Maverik Stadium playing surface.
“Obviously he couldn’t come back into the game,” Sitake said. “We have to protect him and keep him safe. Thank goodness for Jacob Conover (being ready to win the game in the second half).”
Sitake said the Cougars “are hoping to get Baylor back” for the Boise State game, but the clutch backup clearly sustained concussion-like symptoms from the hit.
He wore heavy sunglasses while the team celebrated the win under the bright Maverik Stadium lights Friday night, suggesting he is already in concussion protocol.
“We had to play with some of our depth,” Sitake said. “Guys stepped up and made a lot of big plays and I am just really thankful our players and our coaches stepped up and made it possible for us to get the win.”
Conover got off to a shaky start, overthrowing Gunner Romney and Neil Pau’u with his first two passes as a collegian in his first football game in 31⁄2 years. BYU went three-and-out on its first three possessions of the second half with Conover at quarterback.
However, the fourth drive of the half started with 15-yard completion to Romnney and a 9-yard completion to Pau’u and continued with a 16-yard pass-and-run to star-of-the-game Tyler Allgeier. It ended with a 32-yard field goal that gave BYU a 27-13 lead.
“Oh, we trust him,” Sitake said of Conover. “I mean, he knows that. We trust him with everything in the playbook. … We trust him to be a quarterback and not just hand the ball off, even though that is what we did towards the end because we were trying to grind the clock out and milk it.”
Sitake said Conover “did a good job making adjustments and checks at the line of scrimmage” and handled the raucous atmosphere as well as could be expected.
“My teammates and coaches showed their trust in me,” Conover said. “I had trust in them, and it was like a big family just rocking and rolling. … I know coach (Aaron Roderick) trusts each and every one of us. He trusts Baylor and Jaren and me and Sol-Jay (Maiava-Peters). And it doesn’t skip a beat — the offense doesn’t skip a beat, no matter who is at the helm.”
Conover said he will “never forget” his first appearance in a BYU uniform.
“It was awesome, but we gotta keep moving on next week and if my number is called, I will be ready,” he said.
Whichever QB is tabbed to start will be going against a BSU defense that ranks 108th in the country against the run, so the Broncos should probably expect a heavy dose of Allgeier. BYU’s running back is No. 8 in the country in total rushing yards with 564 and No. 9 in rushing yards per game, at 113.8, after putting 218 yards and three TDs on the Aggies.
The Cougars are 64th in total offense (402.4 yards per game) and 65th in scoring offense (29.2 points per game) and are one of four teams in the country who have yet to trail in a game, along with Michigan, Alabama and Georgia.
That’s pretty good company.
The Cougars are 35th in scoring defense (19.4 points per game) and No. 72 in total defense (378.8 yards per game) and will be playing a day game for the first time since losing to Washington 45-19 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2019.