Jaren Hall returns to the site of one of his biggest disappointments
Both BYU and South Florida enter the season opener looking for revenge after BYU defeated the Bulls last year in Provo and USF upset BYU in 2019 in Tampa
TAMPA, Florida — Revenge is a term that is probably used too often in college football, as rosters change, situations differ and “let’s-get-them-back” emotions wear off rather quickly once the pigskin leaves the tee.
Cougars on the air
No. 25 BYU (0-0)
at South Florida (0-0)
Saturday, 2 p.m. MDT
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM
For example, take Saturday’s season opener here in steamy Tampa as South Florida plays host to No. 25-ranked BYU in the third meeting between the American Athletic Conference cellar-dweller and the independent Cougars in four years. Kickoff at Raymond James Stadium is at 2 p.m. MDT and the cross-country matchup will be televised by ESPNU.
The Bulls couldn’t be blamed for wanting revenge after losing 35-27 last year in Provo, while the Cougars could be forgiven for wanting payback after what happened here on Oct. 12, 2019, in front of an announced crowd of 35,375 sun-drenched fans.
At least, BYU’s Jaren Hall could want revenge. Now a fifth-year junior, Hall became the first Black quarterback to start a game in BYU football history that 86-degree day in central Florida and for two and a half quarters was dominating the contest. His 29-yard touchdown run gave BYU a 23-14 lead with seven minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter.
But with a couple minutes gone in the fourth quarter, after Hall had driven the Cougars into Bulls territory, he was hit just after he released a pass that sailed incomplete, and suffered a concussion that kept him out of the rest of the game. He also missed the following week’s game against Boise State, a Baylor Romney-led 28-25 upset of the No. 14 Broncos that would spark a five-game winning streak.
Hall sat out the entire 2020 season with a hip injury, then won the starting job in 2021 after Zach Wilson turned pro and went 8-2 as a starter last season. One of those losses was at Baylor, where now-USF QB Gerry Bohanon outdueled Hall to get a 38-24 win for the Bears.
“I just expect to manage games properly. I just expect to be the most prepared person on the field, keep my team ahead of the chains, keep my guys in the best positions possible so they can make plays and do what they need to with the ball in their hands.” — BYU quarterback Jaren Hall
If Hall has his sights set on redemption Saturday — against USF or Bohanon — he’s said nothing the past few weeks to indicate as much.
“I just expect to manage games properly. I just expect to be the most prepared person on the field, keep my team ahead of the chains, keep my guys in the best positions possible so they can make plays and do what they need to with the ball in their hands,” he said Monday. “That’s really all I am asked to do, and really what every quarterback ought to do to the best of their abilities.”
Hall completed 15 of 23 passes for 148 yards and a TD in that game three years ago, while picking up 83 yards on the ground. Head coach Kalani Sitake said he hasn’t mentioned the loss all year.
“It seems so long ago, but he was doing great (before the concussion),” Sitake said. “I am not really worried about him. It is a different staff, a different team. Same colors, same stadium. But he is a different player himself, too. So I know he is excited to get the season going, and it just so happens it is in Tampa against South Florida.”
Whatever the case, it is a huge season for Hall, who could be selected in April’s NFL draft if he puts together another solid season. Asked what his expectations are for Hall this season, Sitake replied: “Everything.”
“I think he needs to be a great decision maker (regarding) where he puts the ball and how to make the checks and make the proper adjustments during the play,” Sitake said. “The thing I won’t have to worry about him is his leadership during the game and on the sideline, how he motivates the guys. The guys respond really well to him. So there are a lot of things I am not concerned about.”
Sitake and offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick have said they want Hall to play aggressively, take some chances, especially with standout receivers Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua on the outside.
“I would like to see him get out there and play and just let loose,” Sitake said. “I think last year he was trying to win a spot. This year, it is a different feel. He knew it was his spot. He was able to take some chances in practice. … But I like him being aggressive and I like him taking calculated risks, and I think that is where I saw him make a huge improvement in camp. Let’s see what happens on Saturday, but I feel confident in him and his abilities.”
The Cougars could catch a break with the weather; because there is a 60% chance of afternoon thunderstorms, high temperatures are expected to be in the low 90s.
“It could be hot and humid, but you plan for it, you expect it, you get hydrated the week before, you eat properly, and that is what our coaches and nutrition staff, our sports scientists, have us doing right now,” Hall said. “They got us getting our bodies right so we don’t have to be concerned with any of that when we get there. We can just focus on our game plan and dial it in the way we need to.”