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BYU quarterback Baylor Romney to start Independence Bowl in place of injured Jaren Hall

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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.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Baylor Romney (16) looks to make a throw as BYU and USF play a college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

Quarterback Baylor Romney will make his third start this season when No. 13 BYU meets UAB in today’s Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, at 1:30 p.m. MST on ABC.

The Deseret News confirmed the initial report from BYUtv about Romney earning the start.

Romney, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from El Paso, Texas, will start in place of sophomore Jaren Hall who remains sidelined with a foot injury he sustained late in the game against USC on Nov. 27. Hall had been in a walking boot up until Monday.

In his only television interview this week, Hall told BYUtv on Monday that he was mostly healed and hopeful that he could play. However, Romney has practiced with the first team offense for the last two weeks, including the pre-bowl workouts this week in Shreveport.

“It’s amazing to me how many guys we have been able to play,” Hall said when asked about his biggest surprise of the season. “You hate to see guys go down with injuries, but we have had so many step up and play.”

Romney hasn’t played since doing mop-up work against Idaho State on Nov. 6, but he has a history of stepping in and performing. Romney is 4-0 as a starter.

Earlier this season, when Hall went down with a rib injury on BYU’s final drive against No. 19 Arizona State, Romney took the field.

Without even a warm-up toss since pre-game, Romney stepped in and threw a touchdown pass to Isaac Rex with 1:19 to play to preserve the Cougars’ 27-17 victory.

“The last thing Fesi (Sitake) said to me before we broke the huddle was ‘don’t throw it unless he is wide open,’” Romney told BYUtv after the game. “I threw it even though he was covered pretty good.”

Romney has always been comfortable being a rescue worker for his teammates.

“As soon as I saw Jaren go down, I ran over and grabbed my helmet and just had to do what I had to do,” he said. “I’ve been doing it for a while now so I’m comfortable and I’m ready when I need to go.”

The following week, Romney completed 20 of 25 passes for 305 yards and three touchdowns, including a 55-yard strike to his younger brother Gunner as BYU beat South Florida 35-27.

“That was the play call initially, it just happened to be my brother running the take,” Romney said about his toss to Gunner. “The deep ball was there all night. We had a few big ones which kept our moment going and we scored a bunch of touchdowns.”

Romney started the next week at Utah State and completed 15 of 19 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with a concussion late in the first half. The Cougars won 34-20 behind Tyler Allgeier’s 218 yards rushing and three touchdowns.  

Zach Wilson stayed upright and healthy throughout 2020 which relegated Romney to late-game handoffs and clock management while Hall sat out the entire season. But in 2019, with both Wilson and Hall injured, Romney shined in his first starts against Boise State and Liberty.

The Broncos took the field at LaVell Edwards Stadium undefeated and ranked No. 14 on Oct. 19, 2019. Despite a drizzly rain, Romney completed 15 of 26 passes for 221 yards and two touchdowns as the Cougars stunned Boise State 28-25 and triggered a run that has BYU 26-5 in its last 31 games.

Romney was called on to provide relief again the following week at Utah State when Hall was knocked out of the game with a concussion in the second quarter. Again, BYU didn’t miss a beat. Romney completed 12 of 16 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns, including the program’s first brother-to-brother touchdown connection in BYU’s 42-14 win.

Three more touchdown passes followed against Liberty as the Cougars beat the Flames 31-24.

“Watch and wait” has been the theme of Romney’s young career. “Take care of the football and win” have been the results when his number has been called.

Romney will have his brother Gunner back in the receiving corps after he missed the USC game with a sprained knee injury. A healthy and rested Allgeier at running back should help as well.

Hall told BYUtv this week that his hope for the team today is to “enjoy the moment and have some fun.”

It’s a moment his backup has prepared for and, if the past is any indicator, not even the forecasted rain will dampen the moment ahead for Romney behind center.