COUGARS FIGHT OFF WILDCATS BEFORE RECORD CROWD AT FIRST VKC
LAS VEGAS — Brigham Young football has been involved in some of the highest-attended football games at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Saturday night the Cougars and Arizona Wildcats shattered the glass ceiling at the $2 billion Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders, UNLV Rebels, and Las Vegas Bowl.
In front of an all-time state record for a college sporting event, the Cougars held off Arizona, 24-16, in front of 54,541 fans attending the inaugural Good Sam Vegas Kickoff Classic.
“We’ve got the best fans in the world,” said BYU quarterback Jaren Hall, who tallied 243 total yards and two touchdowns in the win. To be in this environment here in the new Raiders’ stadium, to be in an NFL stadium, to look forward to the future is what every kid dreams of, playing in an NFL stadium. To be with our brothers, coaches and fans was surreal and I’m just happy to get out of here the way we did.”
In just his third career start and first in the post-Zach Wilson era, Hall went 18-of-28 passing for 198 yards with two touchdowns for the Cougars, who have now won 12 of their last 13 games and improved to 5-1 in season openers during Kalani Sitake’s tenure as head coach. Hall, a redshirt sophomore, added one catch for nine yards and had 36 yards on the ground, including a 39-yard dash down the left sideline that set up his second touchdown pass.
BYU’s Neil Pau’u caught eight passes for 126 yards and both of Hall’s touchdown passes.
The Cougars ruined the debut for Arizona coach Jedd Fisch, the former quarterback’s coach for the New England Patriots who replaced Kevin Sumlin, who went 0-5 in 2020. Arizona, which played its first non-conference game in 721 days, lost its 13th consecutive game dating to 2019.
The victory didn’t come easy, though, as BYU saw its third-quarter lead of 21-3 disappear, as the Wildcats quickly made it a one-possession ball game at 21-13.
Arizona couldn’t capitalize on the second-half momentum switch, as both teams kicked a field goal in the fourth quarter to provide the final margin.
While BYU has 207 yards passing and 164 more on the ground, Arizona ended up producing more yards after finishing with 426 overall, including 345 of which came through the air.
Arizona quarterback Gunner Cruz finished 34-of-45 for 336 yards passing, doing much of his damage during the Wildcats’ second-half surge. Cruz split time with Will Plummer, who amassed only nine yards passing on three attempts before Cruz finished the game.
“Disappointing that we did not finish that game off,” Fisch said. “We felt we had a really good opportunity to win that football game and we didn’t get that done. Hats off to BYU. They battled, they came out strong, they came out physical. It was a good game right off the bat, all the way through. And then they battled, and they responded when they needed to respond after a little bit of the momentum shift going into the fourth quarter.
“Our guys battled hard. I think we have a really good football team. I think we have a chance to do some really cool things moving forward.”