TAMPA, Fla. — After watching new addition Chris Brooks run for 135 yards and a touchdown in BYU’s 50-21 plastering of South Florida on Saturday at Raymond James Stadium, Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall said the sky is the limit for the Cal transfer RB in BYU’s offense.

He doesn’t do a bad job operating it himself.

“Jaren played another great game,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said.

Returning to the scene of his first start back in 2019 when the Cougars fell 27-23 to the Bulls and Hall was knocked out of the game in the third quarter with a concussion, the fifth-year junior closed the deal this time.

“That was one of my favorite parts of tonight, was the young receivers stepping in and making plays on third downs, making big plays for us and keeping drives alive. I knew they would do that. I was confident in that, and I know they are confident in themselves.” — BYU quarterback Jaren Hall.

“Yeah, the initial start, I watched that game before this game to see my young self, the way I have grown, and really just (focused on) allowing the game to come to me and not having to feel it out,” Hall said.

There was no feeling of revenge or redemption. That’s not how Hall operates. He stays in the moment, then on Saturday in front of 31,521 in an NFL stadium that he might be playing in again someday, delivered a bunch of them in improving to 9-2 as a starter.

“We were very excited to play, very excited to be out here,” Hall said. “There was just a lot of talk about all the stuff going against us, the weather and all those things. I think it fired us up and got us really going and energized.”

Hall’s stats would have been even better had receiver Keanu Hill hung on to a bomb thrown beautifully by Hall in the second quarter. 

As it were, he finished 25 of 32 for 261 yards with touchdown passes to Dallin Holker and Hill for a passer rating of 161. He threw one interception and was sacked once, losing 1 yard.

“When you make plays, you just build off of that. We did a good job of making plays quick, we pushed the tempo, kept the defense out of the loop,” Hall said.

“They were getting flustered. They couldn’t get lined up quick enough, so we just kept using that against them, just going with our basic stuff that we do in practice, and just kinda rolled through it the first half.”

With Gunner Romney out and Puka Nacua leaving before halftime with 76 yards and two touchdowns running the ball and one catch for 22 yards, Hall found a bunch of other guys ready and willing to fill in.

He completed passes to 12 different players.

“Guys know what they are doing, and being ready for their time when it is their time,” he said. “We preach that all week in practice, understanding that Gunner wouldn’t be available. All fall camp guys were getting reps, and so it just speaks to Fesi (Sitake) getting them ready and them taking his coaching and being on the same page together.”

Coach Kalani Sitake said Romney was “close” to being able to play, in his mind, and might be able to play next week against Baylor. Sitake said Nacua, who was on crutches in the second half, “could have kept going” if the Cougars needed him.

Which they didn’t — after building a 38-0 lead in the second quarter.

“That was one of my favorite parts of tonight, was the young receivers stepping in and making plays on third downs, making big plays for us and keeping drives alive,” Hall said. “I knew they would do that. I was confident in that, and I know they are confident in themselves.”

The 575 total yards Hall and the offense put up are the second-most under Sitake in a season opener. They had 580 at Navy in 2020, when Zach Wilson and company carved up the Navy offense.

Speaking of Brooks, he was as good as advertised. The graduate transfer from Cal ran for 135 yards, including an up-the-middle burst for 52 yards that left USF defensive backs trailing in his wake.

It was the fifth 100-yard game of Brooks’ career, and his second-biggest night as a collegian. He ran for 197 yards against UC Davis one time.

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Hall said the Cougars spent the weather delay chilling out and watching other college football games on television.

“We didn’t stress too much. We didn’t press ourselves to stay fired up and ready to go. We understood the situation,” he said.

“The medical staff was good about keeping us updated, letting us know we had some time. … We kinda stayed tied into the game. We just wanted to make sure we stayed loose and relaxed and then at the 20-minute heads-up we locked right back in, did our thing and went out and played.”

And won convincingly. Unlike three years ago.

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