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‘The definition of grit’: How No. 21 BYU beat a top 10 team at home for the first time since 1990 on a wild Saturday night in Provo

Cougars held off No. 9 Baylor 26-20 in double overtime at LaVell Edwards Stadium after missing two field goals that would have won the game in regulation and the first overtime

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Brigham Young Cougars defensive lineman Caden Haws (95) celebrates a sack on Baylor Bears quarterback Blake Shapen (12) as BYU and Baylor play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

As thousands of BYU fans stormed the field Saturday night to celebrate the No. 21 Cougars’ 26-20 double overtime win over No. 9 Baylor, quarterback Jaren Hall embraced sobbing kicker Jake Oldroyd, who twice missed short field goals that would have meant victory for the home team earlier in the instant classic.

That’s what leaders do.

Pulling out a game it had no business winning, then no business losing — three times, actually — before ending up on top is what this BYU team did, exacting revenge for the 2021 beatdown in Texas.

“I didn’t have any gray hair until I got this job,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake, later adding, “magic happens at home, I guess.”

“Magic happens at home, I guess.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake after the Cougars downed No. 9 Baylor in double-overtime.

In front of a sellout crowd of 63,470, the fourth time was the charm for the Cougars, who escaped at last when Baylor quarterback Blake Shapen’s fourth-and-goal pass from the 11-yard line sailed harmlessly out of the back of the south end zone at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“That one is hard to beat,” said BYU running back Lopini Katoa, who scored what turned out to be the winning touchdown in the second overtime.

After both teams missed field goals in the first overtime, BYU took the 26-20 lead in the second OT when Katoa ran 3 yards for a TD on second-and-goal.

The Cougars had to go for two, per NCAA OT rules, and when Hall’s lob to tight end Isaac Rex was well-defended and knocked incomplete, a sense of impending doom swept through the stadium.

Maybe it just wasn’t BYU’s night. After all, the Cougars hadn’t beat a top-10 team at home since 1990 — a victory over No. 1 Miami.

BYU’s defense — pushed around repeatedly in a 38-24 to Baylor last year in Waco — had other ideas. Baylor picked up a first down on fourth-and-3, by inches to keep the possession alive.

“That’s Grimey,” said Sitake, referring to former BYU OC Jeff Grimes, now calling the plays for the Bears.

Baylor got the ball to the BYU 5 before a pair of false starts — credit the ROC, BYU’s student section, for that — pushed the Bears back to the 10.

The Cougars’ defense got the job done, after having allowed the Bears to convert on eight of 14 third-down attempts, some from more than 10 yards.

Before the incomplete pass sparked the field storming, sophomore Micah Harper made a touchdown-saving tackle inside the 5.

“That’s the definition of grit,” Sitake said. “… Our guys just didn’t give up. Things looked kinda bleak.”

If BYU-Baylor wasn’t a rivalry, it is now. The series is tied 2-2 as BYU enters the Big 12, and hopefully more memorable contests with the Bears, in 2023.

If not for the crazy ending, this would have gone down in BYU lore as the “Chase Roberts Game,” because of how well the redshirt freshman receiver played in the absence of injured stars Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney.

“I had confidence that any guy could step up and be that guy and I was confident in myself,” Roberts said.

The former American Fork High star not only caught eight passes for 122 yards and a touchdown, he threw a touchdown pass — to Hall, and his 37-yard reception on a beautifully thrown ball from Hall at the end of regulation put BYU in field goal range.

But the Cougars got conservative and played for a field goal from Oldroyd, a 2020 finalist for the Lou Groza Award.

Both of his FG attempts — at the end of regulation and in the first overtime — were wide left.

Sitake said he brought Oldroyd to the front of the locker room after the win and told him not to hang his head.

“We believe in Jake,” Sitake said. “We love him and support him … No one is hurting more than him right now. We had to remind him we won the game.”

Said Katoa: “There is no bad talk on Jake Oldroyd.”

Baylor also had chances to win, but were done in by Hall, Roberts, a Cougar defense that came up with four sacks and its own 14 penalties for 117 yards.

In the face of a raucous BYU crowd, the Bears committed four false starts.

Baylor finished with 289 yards, BYU 366, a far cry from last October’s game at McClane Stadium when the Bears averaged 6.4 yards per carry. They were at 2.9 on Saturday, on 52 rushing attempts.

Sitake said he chose to play the second OT on the south end of the field because it is in front of the ROC.

“Our fans were a game-changer, as always,” he said.

Hall was his usual, efficient self. It was the first time in 24 games that Baylor has not forced a turnover.

Hall was 23 of 39 for 261 yards and also ran 10 times for 28 yards. 

Trailing 10-6 after a punchless first half, the Bears took the second-half kickoff and drove 77 yards for the go-ahead touchdown, on nine plays. Baylor converted on third-and-11 and third-and-8 on the drive, capped by a yard 7-yard TD run by Qualan Jones.

At that point, the Bears were 6 of 10 on third down.

Sitake gambled on fourth-and-1 from his own 34 on BYU’s next possession, and Chris Brooks saved him — but just barely. Nine plays later, Oldroyd’s 39-yard field goal tied it at 13-13. 

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick dialed up a trick play to give the Cougars a 20-13 lead. Hall threw a backwards pass to Chase Roberts, then Roberts threw it back to Hall and the quarterback followed a line of blockers to the end zone.

Baylor quickly answered, going 79 yards in 12 plays. Shapen’s 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Sims knotted it at 20-20, and it stayed that way until overtime.

Sitake said he issued a challenge, reminding his team what happened last year in Waco. Asked if the Cougars are good enough now to win the Big 12, Sitake hedged.

“We were good enough tonight to beat Baylor by one play,” he said.

The Cougars started as if they wouldn’t miss Romney and Nacua, taking the opening kickoff and driving to the Baylor 11. But two incomplete passes and a failed quarterback draw resulted in a 27-yard field goal.

BYU would then post four-straight three-and-outs (counting a series extended by a running-into-the-punter penalty and slowly lost the field-position game. 

Baylor drove 68 yards in 13 plays to take the lead, cashing in with a 1-yard TD run by Jones. But the Bears left a little too much time on the clock.

BYU’s offense, which had a total of 11 yards in its three previous possessions, caught fire as Hall connected with Keanu Hill, Kody Epps and Roberts for some nice gains. Hall then hit Roberts with a beautiful throw, and Roberts made a fantastic toe-tapping touchdown catch, with two seconds remaining in the half.

So BYU went into halftime with a 10-6 lead, despite all those failed possessions and just 162 yards of offense. The Cougars had only 19 rushing yards in the first half, and were 1 of 7 on third down.

Baylor had just 92 yards — 68 of them on its touchdown drive.

“A huge shoutout to the defense because they kept us in that game,” Roberts said.

And what a game it was.