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What Jaren Hall accomplished in 2021 is truly remarkable. Here’s why

BYU heads into the bowl season having gone 5-0 against Pac-12 teams. The Cougars’ QB is a big reason why

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall delivers a pass during game against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Sept. 11, 2021.
BYU quarterback Jaren Hall delivers a pass during game against Utah at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Hall steadily guided the Cougars to an improbable 10-win season in 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

How about that Jaren Hall?

Quietly, somewhat humbly, but steady as a beating drum, he led BYU to 10 wins.

So far.

Hall, like so many BYU quarterbacks before him, is fairly or unfairly the face of the team. Wins, titles, records, streaks, losses and milestones are hung on the name of QBs in Provo.

Hall, a redshirt sophomore, will forever be linked to a most remarkable season that still has a bowl game on the horizon. He has a chance to be part of back-to-back 11-win seasons.

Hall is the first to lead BYU to a win over rival Utah since Max Hall walked out of LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2009 with an overtime win. That’s more than a decade. Hall’s captained a team that went 5-0 against Pac-12 foes and 6-1 against Power Five programs.

At the Coliseum on Saturday night as BYU players shuffled around to greet fans, the uniforms of Hall, running back Tyler Allgeier and receiver Puka Nacua were replete with grass stains and mud.

Actually, their jerseys looked that way in the first quarter.

They looked like they’d rolled around and crawled through a low-wire Marine training exercise at Camp Pendleton.

Allgeier was gassed and kept fumbling. He was generally beaten up from a season of hits absorbed by sore shoulders and ribs.

Nacua was knocked silly on one play and had his helmet ripped off during a tackle and was raked over the face by a USC player finishing off his rush to the pile.

Tight end Isaac Rex got carted off the field with a compression cast, likely lost for the bowl game. Star receiver Neil Pau’u didn’t suit up and neither did BYU’s other big-time deep threat Gunner Romney.

In other words, on a night when Hall threw an uncharacteristic two interceptions and had another called back for a roughing the passer call, he was operating under target duress. His protection was without All-American center James Empey and tackles Campbell Barrington and Harris LaChance.

Still, Hall threw touchdown passes of 28 yards to Nacua and 41 yards to Keanu Hill. Hall finished the night completing 20 of 32 with two TDs and two interceptions. This when he had thrown just three picks all season before that night.

In other words, with fewer experienced targets available, Hall threw 40% of his season’s interceptions in the Coliseum that night. One was a tipped ball and the other was a bomb meant for Nacua in the end zone in which Nacua tripped.

Taysom Hill, now a QB with the New Orleans Saints, led BYU to seven victories over P5 opponents during his career, including wins over Georgia Tech, Virginia, Arizona, Michigan State, Mississippi State and two wins over Texas. He did start in an eighth P5 win at Nebraska but did not finish that game, a win credited to a Hail Mary pass from Tanner Mangum to Mitch Mathews.

Hall got his six P5 wins in one season, a year that was basically his first full year as a starting college quarterback.

Ironically, his best performance of the season may have come during a loss to P5 Baylor in Waco, Texas. On that afternoon he completed 22 of 31 passes for 342 yards and a touchdown. He also ran untouched for a 53-yard TD. His pass efficiency rating against the Bears, a team that will play Oklahoma State for the Big 12 championship this week, was 174.28.

At the end of BYU’s 2021 regular-season victory at USC, you got the feeling the 10 wins were bigger than that record represented. Certainly, it was bigger than last year’s 11-win campaign that featured Sun Belt teams and no P5 opponents.

It’s likely too late, but if I were the team equipment manager, I’d take Hall’s game jersey and put it in a shadow box, unwashed and in its original battle state with stains from the Coliseum and display it as a symbol of the 2021 season.

In 2021, BYU and Hall had to test the team’s depth on both offense and defense, call on walk-ons, second- and third-stringers, all while playing against P5 talent and depth of which all rosters were comprised of athletes with more star ratings.

BYU finished against USC with walk-ons spread all over the field, especially on defense, where seven starters that began the season were not on the playing field, including Payton Wilgar, Keenan Pili and Chaz Ah You, the only four-star recruit in the bunch.

Hall and company deserve a lot of credit. Specifically, their quiet leader. He had 20 touchdown passes on 63% completions and a season-efficiency rating of 156.1.

Like a true leader, Hall praised that defense for making a game-saving stop at the end on a tackle by cornerback Kaleb Hayes.

After the regular-season finale, a lot was said about this BYU squad having one another’s back.

“A lot of trust: From Game 1 our defense has done a great job,” Hall said. “I think when we haven’t played our best offensively the defense has. I think that’s what’s helped us be so successful this year.

“The defense has really been slept on a lot from the outside. We see every day the work they put in. You look at the scoreboard and we hold a lot of these good offenses to low points. Tonight they stepped up big time, especially at the end of the game. It doesn’t get much bigger than that.

“Needing a stop on fourth down when the other team is about to score just speaks to the coaching, the way they set them up. I can think of five or six guys right now that stepped up and made plays so I’m super happy for all those guys on defense. They deserve it. They made big plays when we needed to. That’s why we won the game.”

Hey, somebody keep Hall’s USC game jersey.

Just for the record, keep it away from the OxiClean.

It was a remarkable 10 wins and Hall was smack dab in the center of it all.