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USF makes a game of it with BYU after a first quarter to forget

The No. 15 Cougars race out to a 21-0 lead, then Timmy McClain and the Bulls start to find their footing in a 35-27 loss.
USF freshman quarterback Timmy McClain throws for 186 yards and runs for 55 yards against BYU on Saturday night in Utah.
USF freshman quarterback Timmy McClain throws for 186 yards and runs for 55 yards against BYU on Saturday night in Utah. [ GEORGE FREY | Associated Press ]
Published Sep. 26
Updated Sep. 26

PROVO, Utah — Baylor Romney threw for a career-high 305 yards and three touchdowns to lead No. 15 BYU to a 35-27 victory over USF on Saturday night.

Tyler Allgeier ran for 81 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help the Cougars earn their sixth straight victory dating to last season. Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua each finished with more than 100 receiving yards, combining for 221 yards and a touchdown on nine catches.

BYU (4-0) turned in a dominant offensive performance, totaling 443 yards while averaging 8.9 yards per play.

“We’re right on the bridge of going off in the pass game, so I’m excited,” said Nacua, who finished with a career-high 102 receiving yards on four catches.

Freshman Timmy McClain threw for 186 yards and ran for 55 yards to lead USF. Jaren Mangham added 86 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The Bulls (1-3) scored on three straight clock-chewing drives in the second half before ultimately coming up short.

“We were able to get the yards we needed to keep the drives going,” USF coach Jeff Scott said. “That’s what we’re going to have to be able to do this year, especially with the lack of depth on defense. We’re not going to be able to play as fast as we would like to play on offense.”

Baylor Romney started at quarterback in place of Jaren Hall, who suffered a rib injury on BYU’s final scoring drive against Arizona State a week earlier. With him at the controls, the Cougars ran over the Bulls from the start.

“We thought Jaren would be ready to go, but the advice of our medical staff was to hold him out,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We felt good about Baylor starting this game.”

On his first pass of the game, Baylor Romney hit his brother, Gunner, with a 49-yard strike that set up BYU’s first touchdown. He followed with a 55-yard dart to Puka Nacua that set up another score on the Cougars’ second drive.

BYU raced out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter after scoring on each of its first three drives. Allgeier accounted for back-to-back touchdowns in that stretch, scoring twice on 1-yard fourth-down runs.

“I think if you score that many points early that you’re going to be in a good spot,” Sitake said. “I liked all three phases to start out. But the second half just puts sort of a dark cloud over all of it.”

USF strung together multiple long scoring drives over the final three quarters to mount a comeback. The Bulls had four scoring drives lasting more than five minutes.

“I can’t wait to go back and watch this tape,” Scott said. “Timmy made some plays with his feet. I think there were some critical third-down and fourth-down plays against a really good defense.”

The Bulls finally scored their first touchdown on Xavier Weaver’s 3-yard run on fourth down off a reverse midway through the third quarter. USF marched down on the field on each of its next two drives and scored back-to-back touchdowns on short runs by Mangham to cut the deficit to 35-27 with 5:41 remaining. Mangham’s second score, a 1-yard run on fourth down, capped off a 19-play, 94-yard drive that burned nine minutes off the clock.

USF did not recover an onside kick, allowing BYU to run out the clock on its final drive.

“We were just focused on playing assignment-sound football, and in the second half we really struggled to do that,” BYU linebacker Pepe Tanuvasa said. “On the bright side, we haven’t really played a full game of our best defense, so I’m really excited for next week to show that.”