It was Isaac Rex Day at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday,

The big tight end delivered a career performance against Southern Utah to help BYU get some momentum heading into a huge challenge at Arkansas in Fayetteville next week.

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick and tight ends coach Steve Clark really needed Rex to get his mojo going with senior quarterback Kedon Slovis after the offense struggled to score 14 points in the opener against Sam Houston State.

Rex caught a career-best 112 yards on just four catches in BYU’s 41-16 win over SUU. His 65-yard reception on a full-speed catch and run came on a perfect strike delivered by Slovis and set up one of BYU’s six touchdowns.

“He’s awesome and he’s done a great job ever since I’ve been here,” said Slovis. “I’m so happy that he’s been more confident and healthy in his ankle.

“I know last year was a struggle for him and he’s been through a lot of adversity. He’s a huge target out there for me, does the right thing, he’s really smart and makes my job a lot easier.”

To get Rex loose means everything for BYU’s passing game. It opens up coverage for the wide receivers, and when 2022 leading receiver Kody Epps returns to the lineup, it will make it easier for Slovis to find the shifty slotback.

Rex caught a 20-yard touchdown from Slovis for BYU’s first score of the game Saturday. He thought he might break a huge tight end record at BYU on his 65-yarder but he was tackled short of that glory.

Rex now has 22 career TDs, tying legendary All-American tight end Gordon Hudson for career touchdowns.

That needs a little perspective for what Sir Rex has done since he broke his ankle two years ago in a win over USC in Los Angeles.

3 takeaways from BYU’s 41-16 victory over Southern Utah
Highlights, key plays and photos from BYU’s victory over Southern Utah

A reminder: Hudson was Steve Young’s sidekick, and caught passes from Jim McMahon and Robbie Bosco. He was an automatic safety valve, a high-percentage target. He had soft hands, ran outstanding routes.

He set an NCAA record for receiving yards in a single game (259) set Nov. 21, 1981 against Utah, a mark that has stood the test of time. His 5.4 catches per game in his career remains among the NCAA’s best. A 2009 inductee into the College Football Hall of Fame, Hudson passed away Sept. 27, 2021 at age 59.

In everyone’s book, the recovery and momentum of Rex in his college career is a big deal.

Rex suffered a complex fracture of his foot, one that required metal plates and screws, at the end of November in 2021 with six minutes left in the game in the Coliseum. That injury postponed his marriage to BYU volleyball player Alexis Davis late that fall.

Since then, Rex has endured soreness, pain and stiffness. His speed and explosive ability suffered. Last season, Rex answered the bell but he wasn’t his old self, the one that enabled him to tie Florida’s Kyle Pitts for most touchdown catches by a tight end nationally in 2020 with 12. 

Yes, Rex had a day Saturday and it was against 0-2 SUU. 

But against who and where doesn’t matter. 

What does matter is the fact Rex is looking more and more like he did before his injury derailed his ability to be The Rex. It’s that kind of story.

Linebacker Max Tooley saluted Rex after the game.

“It’s great seeing Isaac running around out there, making big plays and big third down conversions,” Tooley said. “He’s always been one of those reliable guys ever since he was a freshman.

“He’s going to go up and make a play on the ball. He’s going to go get the extra yards that we need. He’s sacrificing his body jumping over dudes. It’s just the way he plays. We can always count on him.”

Added Clark: “He went from a guy who was in jeopardy of not being able use his foot ever again to a guy making big plays and scoring touchdowns.

“There have been challenges in the last nine months that no one knows about but close family members concerning his recovery and if he would ever play again. I know one thing, he is grateful to be out there.”

Rex is very aware of Hudson’s career TD mark which he now shares.

“I would be lying if I said it didn’t mean a lot,” said Rex. “I’ve grown up being a huge BYU fan coming to all of the games. I’ve looked up to players like Dennis Pitta, my dad (Byron) of course and even old Gordon Hudson highlights.

“It has been a dream of mine to play this position and this school. To get a record like that is really cool for me. I don’t take it lightly. I realize that this is a team sport, and I try to do my job every play, but to have a stat in the record books is really cool and I can’t deny that.”

On Saturday BYU’s offense pushed its offense forward with Slovis completing 22 of 32 passes for 348 yards and four touchdown passes.

Slovis also ran for his third TD of the season Saturday, but BYU’s run attack remains a mystery. SUU held BYU to 46 yards on 23 attempts, or 2 yards per carry. Aidan Robbins may find his touches challenged by freshman LJ Martin, who once again showed tremendous passion and effort.

Defensively, BYU had its moments in holding SUU to 16 points, but also had some breakdowns on third down defense. The Cougars gave up chunk yardage on SUU’s 8 of 16 third-down conversions after allowing just two in the first half.

Arkansas begins a whole new chapter for head coach Kalani Sitake.

Arkansas beat lowly 0-2 Kent State 28-6 on Saturday.

It’s SEC territory and Sitake will need to see more improvement out of his squad that did cut down on miscues that surfaced in the opening win over Sam Houston.

Seeing Rex fuel up will certainly help.