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Tricking the Tusks: How BYU got rolling with a double-pass to surprise Arkansas in win

Freshman Parker Kingston becomes seventh BYU player to catch a touchdown pass and throw for a TD in the same game

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Brigham Young Cougars defensive end Michael Daley (45) celebrates the win over the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Brigham Young Cougars defensive end Michael Daley (45) celebrates the win over the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville on Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023. BYU won 38-31.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — USC and Pitt transfer quarterback Kedon Slovis threw three terrific passes in an otherwise uneven performance Saturday night in BYU’s 38-31 win.

He didn’t see any of them get caught. More on that in a bit.

BYU receiver Parker Kingston, the former Roy High School quarterback, threw one spectacular left-handed pass, and it was executed so brilliantly that the redshirt freshman saw it work the entire way.

“It was surreal,” Kingston said.

It was much-needed, too, because the Cougars trailed 14-0 at the time offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick dialed up the trickeration — BYU calls them “specials” — and were in danger of getting ran right out of Razorbacks Stadium in front of 74,821 fans, the eighth-largest ever at the venue in Northwest Arkansas.

“I didn’t know we were going to call the play so early in the game. I thought it would be later in the game when we needed to change momentum,” Kingston said.

“But we needed it early. We had been running it all week. I knew that if we executed it like we should it would be a touchdown, so it was awesome.”

Later, Kingston caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Slovis on a screen play, becoming the seventh player in BYU history to throw and catch a touchdown in the same game.

He also returned a kickoff 46 yards, a career-high, after a 41-yard effort last week in the 41-16 win over Southern Utah.

“It means a lot, obviously,” Kingston said. “I want to shout out to everyone that was able to (make it), like Deion (Smith), Chase (Roberts), Darius (Lassister), who were blocking for the touchdown throw, Kingsley (Suamataia), Isaac (Rex), who were blocking for the touchdown. Without them, none of that would have happened.”

Another freshman, running back LJ Martin, also shined for the Cougars. Making his first career start, Martin ran 45 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter to knot the game at 14.

Martin finished with 77 yards on 23 carries.

“We got a lot of young guys on this team that can play,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said.

On Kingston’s throw, Smith was wide open down the same sideline BYU’s bench was on and he strolled into the end zone for the 37-yard TD.

“He had that lefty arm,” Roberts said of Kingston, “so coming in from the right side, he had that throw in him.”

Slovis didn’t have a lot of great throws in him, until it really mattered.

The first great one came when he was getting hit in the first quarter but found Rex for a 25-yard gain.

Rex made a fantastic one-handed catch, and two plays later Martin scored to give BYU a 21-14 lead.

The second one came when he threw a strike to Keelan Marion for 37 yards, and the third one was caught by Roberts, again one-handed, for a 7-yard TD that proved to be the game-winner.

“I didn’t even get to see it, to be honest. I saw him stick a hand out. Same with Keelan’s — I didn’t get to see it because I was on the ground,” Slovis said.

“Just happy to see them end up with the ball. Chase’s catch was huge for us to make it instead of third down in the red zone, we are scoring and take the lead.”

As for Rex’s catch, same thing.

“Someone told me, ‘Hey, go love up Isaac, he made a heckuva catch,’” Slovis said. “Yeah, that was a tough play. Again, it is great having a huge target like that.”

Slovis finished 13 of 25 for 167 yards and the two TD tosses.

“Yeah that was awesome,” he said of the BYU crowd, some 5,000 strong. “It was pretty loud at the end of the game. A lot of blue in the stands.

“I know the reputation. I saw it first hand when I was at USC. To have it supporting us on the road, it was awesome. Just proud to be a Coug.”