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For BYU, redemption not revenge, must be the motivator

The Cougars left Waco on the wrong end of a 38-24 outcome, but must enter Saturday’s rematch focused and steady

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BYU quarterback Jaren Hall celebrates as teammate Tyler Allgeier crosses the goal line to score a touchdown against Baylor.

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall celebrates as teammate Tyler Allgeier crosses the goal line to score a touchdown against Baylor Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, in Waco, Texas. The Bears manhandled the Cougars that day but BYU has chance to even the score Saturday night in Provo.

Ron Jenkins, Associated Press

It’s not often a “second chance” at making a “first impression” comes along, but for BYU’s football team, that chance is coming on Saturday.

The 21st-ranked Cougars host No. 9 Baylor in the home opener at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m. MDT, ESPN). The Bears throttled BYU last year in Waco, 38-24, in a score that was much closer than the actual contest.

The disparity in talent and consequently, the performance, especially at the line of scrimmage was obvious. Baylor controlled the football, the clock and the outcome. The Bears gave the newly invited Big 12 member an introductory course into higher education — or at least a higher form of football.

For the Cougars, the defeat was its second in row after falling to Boise State in Provo and it all but removed them from the national hunt. In two weeks’ time, they dropped from No. 10 to the unranked. To the contrary, the win catapulted the Bears into the top 25 and fueled their march to the Big 12 championship and a Sugar Bowl victory.

Baylor owned the moment and cashed it in. BYU took the beating and soaked it in.

As a result, the one-sidedness keeps Saturday’s rematch from qualifying as a revenge game. Instead, it is a shot at redemption. A chance to show the Big 12 how much BYU has improved in the 329 days since its baptism by fire at McLane Stadium on the shore of the Brazos River.

Redemption beats revenge.

The anger and frustration that feeds revenge is like eating a donut for breakfast. It delivers in the moment but won’t carry you over to lunch. Four-quarter redemption requires a four-course meal. It is a change of behavior from top to bottom that has staying power — and can even go into overtime, if necessary.

Redemption for BYU’s improved offensive line will mean establishing the ground attack and protecting quarterback Jaren Hall. Last year, the Cougars rolled out a young line of two sophomores, a junior and two freshmen to face a veteran Baylor defense. In no time, the “new kids on the block” were playing as if they were on skates and the Bears pushed them around all game long.

The Cougars couldn’t run and couldn’t protect — as Hall was sacked five times.

Tyler Allgeier, in the middle of his quest to break BYU’s single-season rushing record, was held to a season-low 33 yards on 15 carries. As a team, BYU rushed for 67 yards, and that includes Hall’s 56-yard run in the third quarter.

In his debut season as the starting quarterback, Hall threw for 342 yards and a touchdown against one of the Big 12’s better pass defenses, but breakdowns on the offensive line cost the Cougars dearly.

Trailing 10-7 in the second quarter, Hall drove BYU to the Baylor 27-yard line but was sacked on third-and-seven. A reasonable field goal try became a 50-yard effort and Jake Oldroyd missed it to the left.

In the third quarter, with Baylor leading 24-14, Hall marched the Cougars to the Bears’ 24, but on third-and-six, a mistake by freshman right tackle Campbell Barrington allowed veteran defensive end TJ Franklin to get a clean shot at Hall and force a fumble.

The Bears scored four plays later. Instead of what could have been a three-point deficit with newfound momentum, BYU trailed by 17 and the battle was basically over.

Redemption for the defense will mean stopping the run and getting off the field. Baylor rushed 47 times for 303 yards and four touchdowns while dominating the time of possession by over 11 minutes.

The Bears’ Abram Smith ran 27 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns without being tackled behind the line of scrimmage a single time. Teammate Trestan Ebnar ran for 95 yards on 11 carries.

In BYU’s secondary, three Baylor receivers logged 52 yards or more. It was domination. It was an introduction into the upper echelon of Big 12 football and BYU was humbled.

Saturday’s rematch requires something stronger than revenge as the motivator. Only redemption, both personal and public, will be enough to turn the tables. Each Cougar must win his position. Each unit must win the possession and an entire team effort will be required to win the game.

The offensive line that was manhandled in Waco is back, bigger, stronger and more experienced — thanks to the Baylor game. With two projected NFL draft picks (Blake Freeland and Clark Barrington) BYU is now prepared to establish the ground attack and protect the quarterback.

Hall is older and wiser and eager to face the Bears’ secondary as he prepares for a shot at the NFL. In last week’s appetizer against South Florida, without Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua (after the third possession), he completed passes to 12 different receivers and put 50 points on the scoreboard.

Allgeier is gone, but the trio of Chris Brooks, Lopini Katoa and Jackson McChesney give BYU every chance to run the football.

The defense that was outplayed last year is back bigger, stronger and more experienced. With linebacker Keenan Pili, who missed the Baylor game with an ACL tear, the Cougars are better equipped to stop the run.

There is precedence in this potential rivalry. Baylor upset BYU 40-36 on Sept. 10, 1983, in Waco. Quarterback Steve Young and the Cougars responded by winning the next 11 games. The following September in Provo, motivated by a little revenge, Robbie Bosco and company routed the Bears 47-13 on their way to winning the 1984 national championship.

Fast-forward almost four decades — a better Baylor team rocked No. 19 BYU last year. Can the Cougars return the favor Saturday? Absolutely. Will they do it? That’s the question that will keep every BYU fan on edge all week long. If they do, it will be the motivation of redemption, not revenge, that will provide a rare “second chance” to make a “first impression” on the Big 12.

Such a conquest couldn’t come at a better time because after Saturday, the next Big 12 opponent the Cougars face will be a conference game in 2023.

Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.

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BYU running back Jackson McChesney (21) slips through a tackle during BYU’s season opener against USF on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

Robert W. Grover, for the Deseret News