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BYU is lucky that Baylor Romney, unlike many backup QBs at other programs, stuck around

During his three years with the Cougars, when called upon, Romney has risen to the occasion

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BYU quarterback Baylor Romney looks to make a throw as BYU and South Florida play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.

BYU quarterback Baylor Romney prepares to throw during a game against South Florida at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Let’s face it. If Baylor Romney were like most college quarterbacks with his proven skill and production, he’d have been long gone by now. He would have entered the transfer portal and he’d be wearing another uniform at a school that actually keeps him on the field.

There would be a lot of takers if he declared himself a college free agent. Romney is the backup quarterback at BYU, now three years running. A former walk-on, he’s the Cougars’ Whack-A-Mole quarterback, popping up once in a while and putting a good scare into opponents and then disappearing on the sideline again.

Which is where we’ll probably find him this weekend against Boise State. Romney and starting quarterback Jaren Hall are both coping with injuries — the former with an apparent concussion, the latter with bruised ribs. Even when his head clears, Romney will be on the bench again when Hall is healthy.

At almost any other school, Romney would be the starting quarterback. He has played in 12 games in three years — the equivalent of one full season. That’s certainly enough playing time to evaluate his production, so here goes:

He has a career pass efficiency rating of 168. The only BYU quarterbacks who have compiled a higher single-season rating are guys named Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer, Steve Sarkisian, Marc Wilson and Zach Wilson (maybe you’ve heard of them). In their best seasons, Steve Young and John Beck produced about the same rating as Romney.

If you can’t make sense of the pass efficiency rating, look at the key numbers: Romney has averaged a healthy 9.1 yards per attempt and has thrown 13 touchdown passes to only three interceptions. In all, he has completed 114 of 165 passes — or 69.1%) for 1,503 yards.

This year he has been even better, completing 36 of 45 passes — an off-the-charts completion percentage of 80 — for 495 yards. Are those numbers the result of completing a lot of short passes under the coverage, you’re wondering? Glad you asked. No. He has averaged a whopping 11 yards per attempt. They have resulted in five touchdowns, zero interceptions and three wins. 

Romney has thrown one interception in the last seven games in which he has played.

He’s 5-0 as a starting quarterback.

By comparison, Hall has played in 12 games in three seasons, completing 82 of 131 passes (62.6%) for 981 yards, eight touchdowns, two interceptions and a rating of 142.6. He has averaged 7.5 yards per attempt. Those are solid numbers in their own right.

Romney, the No. 3 quarterback at the time, played in four games as a freshman in 2019 because of injuries to Wilson and Hall. He started three of them and the Cougars won all of them, against Boise State, Utah State and Liberty.

He saw only mop-up duty last year when Wilson was leading the Cougars to an 11-1 season. Wilson was the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL draft last spring.

This year Romney has seen the field in two games plus a few plays in a third game. He relieved an injured Hall in the final 2 ½ minutes against Arizona State and three plays later threw the game-sealing touchdown pass.

With Hall still injured, Romney started the following week against South Florida and completed 20 of 25 passes for 305 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. He started last week’s game against Utah State and completed 15 of 19 passes for 187 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions before leaving the game late in the first half with an injury.

Romney’s play has not gone unnoticed. In June 2020, Sports Illustrated wrote a story under the headline “The Case for Baylor Romney at Quarterback.” Writer Casey Lundquist wrote why he believed Romney could become the starter, which would have meant outplaying Wilson for the starting job. That didn’t happen, and we know what Wilson did after that, but the idea of Romney becoming the starter wasn’t that far-fetched at the time. Many thought Romney would win the starting job this season after Wilson moved on to the New York Jets. That didn’t happen either.

So why is Romney still at BYU, especially in this era of the transfer portal, which makes the transfer process easier than ever? And no position is in more demand than quarterback?

Romney provided a thoughtful answer in an interview with the Florida News Times last winter: “Early on in my career here at BYU, the thought of transferring did enter into my head. I was pretty deep on the depth chart. I didn’t know how much of the field I would see. But you have to think that wherever you go, there are going to be guys you have to compete against that are going to be the quarterbacks that were the best in their state, that did all these great things in high school. So there is going to be competition wherever you go.”