In what ended up being a much stranger game than it appeared would be the case early, the 15th-ranked BYU Cougars held on to beat the USF Bulls 35-27 on Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah.

Here are three keys in the Cougars’ win.

Incredible start

The Bulls have not been good for quite a while, and it seemed in the first quarter Saturday night as if the Cougars would walk all over them.

BYU scored touchdowns on its first three offensive possessions — all rather quick scores — and barely allowed any yards at all on its first two defensive possessions as it opened up a 21-0 lead less than 11 minutes into the contest.

Filling in for injured starting quarterback Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney was tremendous early, the offensive line was opening up holes for running backs and the defense swarmed to the ball.

The psychology of a big early lead could have played a role in how close the game ended up being, but regardless of why and how USF got back into it, the great start ultimately proved necessary for the Cougars.

Baylor Romney was outstanding

When Hall was named BYU’s starter before the season, coaches made sure to say that Romney was also a very good quarterback. Romney has shown that throughout his career when he has gotten the opportunity to play, but he elevated to another level on Saturday.

Romney finished a remarkable 20 of 25 for 305 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. At one point, he completed 12 passes in a row.

Highlights, key plays and photos from No. 15 BYU’s 35-27 win over USF

Credit surely has to be given to Romney’s receivers and perhaps USF’s defense is not great, but Romney certainly was far more than adequate in filling in for Hall.

Romney connected with his brother Gunner five times for 119 yards, including a 47-yard touchdown. He also found Masen Wake five times in short yardage situations including a touchdown and Puka Nacua and Neil Pau’u four times apiece for a combined 144 yards, with Pau’u scoring a touchdown.

The defense was interesting

While BYU’s offense hummed along very nicely much of the night, its defense was not as stout after the great start, especially in the second half.

In the first half, the Cougars bent in allowing a couple of long drives, but only broke to the extent of allowing two field goals. In the second half, however, the long USF drives not only remained, but they turned into touchdowns.

When it was all said and done, the Bulls had scoring drives of 13, 12, 14, 6 and 19 plays as BYU just could not find a way to get off the field.

In just his second career start, USF freshman quarterback Timmy McClain went 17 of 24 for 186 yards and added 55 rushing yards on 15 carries. Jaren Mangham led the Bull rushing attack with 86 yards on 26 carries and Kelly Joiner added another 28 yards on just four carries.