BYU’s Gunner Romney ‘glad to be out playing again’ after making season debut vs. Utah State
Fifth-year senior caught four passes for 51 yards, but was disappointed that he dropped a potential touchdown pass
BYU receiver Gunner Romney’s long-awaited 2022 season debut came Thursday night against the Utah State Aggies — whose students once made a sign making fun of his unique first name — and he picked up right where he left off last season.
Although Romney admitted to being “super rusty, for sure,” and said his conditioning level wasn’t good, he still caught four passes for 51 yards and had one carry for 2 yards in the 38-26 win in the Battle for the Old Wagon Wheel at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“I am just glad to be out playing again,” said Romney, who caught a 34-yard pass from Jaren Hall on BYU’s first offensive play of the game.
“That’s what first games are for, to see what I can prove, shake off the rust and just be ready to go for next week again.”
“We kinda talked before this game happened that Utah State was going to come out firing, and we weren’t prepared for it. We said we gotta go out and bring a lot of energy, but we really didn’t. They were more physical than us, they had more energy than us, they were more motivated than us.” — BYU receiver Gunner Romney on the first half against Utah State.
Last year in Logan, Romney and his brother, Baylor, led the Cougars to a 34-20 win at Maverik Stadium, then Gunner retrieved a sign saying “Gunner is a stupid name” and signed it for the USU fan.
He wasn’t as effective against the Aggies Thursday, but was a good decoy as the Cougars played without fellow receivers Puka Nacua (lower leg) and Chase Roberts (hip).
“I am not even close conditioning-wise. I was out of breath almost the entire game,” Romney said.
“That was something I haven’t practiced too often this week. It is a short week, too. I was tying to get in as many reps as I could and still stay fresh. That is something that will still come with time. By next week, we will be good.”
Coach Kalani Sitake said the Cougars are a better team when Romney is playing.
“It was good to get him back on the field,” Sitake said.
On this night, he had some help. Jaren Hall completed 17 of 27 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns, with a passer rating of 184.9. The Cougars didn’t have a turnover for the fourth straight game.
Kody Epps caught five passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, Brayden Cosper had three catches for 56 yards and Keanu Hill had two catches for 46 yards and a TD.
But the Cougars’ offense struggled after Max Tooley’s pick-six gave BYU a 14-7 lead. BYU had three straight three-and-outs before Jake Oldroyd’s 45-yard field goal tied it at 17-17 with 2:32 remaining in the first half.
“We kinda talked before this game happened that Utah State was going to come out firing, and we weren’t prepared for it,” Romney said. “We said we gotta go out and bring a lot of energy, but we really didn’t.
“They were more physical than us, they had more energy than us, they were more motivated than us, but luckily we made some good adjustments at halftime and came out with a little more fire and were able to get the job done.”
There was one ball Romney would like to have back. He dropped one in the end zone in the second quarter.
“I feel like I played most of the game without thinking about (his lacerated kidney) at all,” he said. “It was a catch that I have to make. Those are catches that are routine for me and I need to haul that one in.”
Other guys who returned to action for BYU Thursday included offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia, defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner and cornerback Kaleb Hayes.
Joining Nacua and Roberts on the sidelines were tight end Masen Wake, long snapper Austin Riggs, safety Malik Moore and three defensive linemen: Gabe Summers, Josh Larsen and Blake Mangelson.