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The Cougars took down ASU, so shouldn’t they be leading the Pac-12 South at 3-0?

Tyler Allgeier, Jaren Hall, BYU’s defense and the home crowd all proved huge in win over the Sun Devils

Brigham Young fullback Masen Wake, top, dodges a tackle by Arizona State wide receiver Giovanni Sanders (20) during an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.
Brigham Young fullback Masen Wake, top, dodges a tackle by Arizona State wide receiver Giovanni Sanders (20) during an NCAA college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

BYU is undefeated and making it easier for poll voters to keep moving them up.

The No. 23 Cougars took the theoretical lead in the Pac-12 South Division standings at 3-0 with a dramatic 27-17 win over No. 19 Arizona State late Saturday night before a delirious crowd packed in LaVell Edwards Stadium.

Well, the position in the standings doesn’t count.

But it should.

Kalani Sitake watched hero after hero step up to lead his 3-0 Cougar team on this night, delivering his team two back-to-back wins over ranked teams from the Pac-12 in Utah and ASU — both favored to challenge for the league’s South Division.

The Cougars led from start to finish and salted the win away with backup quarterback Baylor Romney throwing a 3-yard dagger touchdown pass to tight end Isaac Rex.

Heroes?

It won’t show up in the box score or any statistical category, but BYU’s home crowd deserves a huge assist for this one. After dominating the third quarter, ASU found itself trying to drive for a TD from its own 5-yard line midway in the fourth quarter only to burn 4:30 off the clock with four false start penalties in six plays, settling for a punt and only 9 yards on the possession.

ASU’s offensive players could not hear the signals and different players, both linemen, receivers, and a tight end was flagged for false starts. Wasn’t there like 14 false starts or delay of game penalties by the Sun Devils?

That was all BYU needed to drive 77 yards in 12 plays that ate up the clock to where Romney finished off the Sun Devils with his strike to Rex with 1:19 left in the game.

But that was just one dramatic leg in this ESPN-made for TV drama.

We just may have seen the most dramatic play of the year, certainly among the best so far this college season.

Former linebacker turned running back Tyler Allgeier made what could be the play of the year late in the third quarter when he watched his QB Jaren Hall throw an interception while in the grasp of a tackler. Allgeier sprinted downfield and caught ASU defensive back Merlin Robertson, who had run for 60 yards and was rightfully looking at a pick-six. He caught Robertson from behind, securing the tackle with his left hand, and threw a haymaker punch at the ball, knocking it to the turf, where Hall recovered it.

Allgeier said his only thought was to catch up. “Puka (Nacua) and I hit into each other but after that I just wanted to haul butt. I just wanted to do my part. Anyone could have done it,” he said.

Not really. Hall said Allgeier was plain old faster than he was.

“Easily, that was the biggest play of the game,” said Rex. “For him to hustle and make that game-saving play, it was the key factor in this game no question. If he hadn’t have done that, ASU would have taken the lead in the game.”

“It was the best play I’ve ever seen,” said Hall of his running back’s theatrics. “It has to be the play of the year in college football.”

Hall had his own moments, finding Gunner Romney and Rex for touchdown passes and keeping drives alive with huge run plays that killed ASU’s defense. Most of all, he was calm, in control and but for a couple interceptions, was golden for his team. Hall said he got the wind knocked out of him on BYU’s final drive that required Romney to replace him.

“Jaren played his heart out and went into monster mode for us,” said Rex.

BYU’s defense and special teams forced three ASU turnovers. If you count Allgeier’s forced fumble on the TD-saving play, the Cougars got four total turnovers. Those included first-half picks by Malik Moore and Max Tooley and a forced fumble on the opening kickoff by Talmage Gunther.

“We can still open up the pass game,” said Hall. “We have constant energy and constant trust. Our offensive line is killing it this year and our running backs are making plays. We are 3-0 against good opponents, what more can you ask for?”

Sitake praised his team’s resilience in this and the other two wins. He likes effort, energy and fight. But he said the Cougars can play better.

“I thank ASU for giving us a great game and providing us with an opportunity to learn and get better,” said Sitake.

It’s early, and the road ahead remains a challenge, but you have to hand it to Sitake and what he’s built with his staff, players and culture.

This was a September any other of his teams would be a .500 team if you think about it, especially after losing five talented players to the NFL, including QB Zach Wilson.

This team has officially validated its 11-1 season a year ago that so many poked fun at. Taking down two ranked teams in back-to-back weekends and going 14-1 since that estranged 2020 COVID-19 season began is impressive.

ASU was speedy, talented and had 11 defensive starters back from last season. The Sun Devils were explosive and if anywhere but Provo, they may have pulled off a comeback.

But not this season. BYU may be one of the only teams in the country to have opened up with three Power 5 opponents. The last time BYU had back-to-back 3-0 starts was 1951 and 1952.

“We are warriors,” said Hall. “We haven’t done it pretty with scores but this team is bought into the culture, we love each other and have bought into the system and our coaches. We play for each other and love shown us by Kalani Sitake.”