Getting to a bowl game for the 17th time in their last 18 seasons apparently wasn’t the only thing motivating the BYU Cougars on Saturday afternoon in their eventual 52-26 win over the Utah Tech Trailblazers.
BYU got a little bulletin board material a few days before the game courtesy of Utah Tech redshirt junior receiver Malcolm Ross-Turner, and even coach Kalani Sitake said the statements on video served to fire up the Cougars.
In a video posted on social media websites, Ross-Turner predicted a Utah Tech win even though BYU was a 38-point favorite, and he was also quoted as saying the Cougars were comparable to a Big Sky team, Sacramento State.
“We definitely heard it. Media is everywhere nowadays. Everyone has a phone. You are not going to hear something like that. So yeah, it definitely motivated us yesterday, seeing the quote, seeing the video. But that’s the game of football. People say stuff, and you gotta respond. Luckily for us it kinda put a fire beneath us and got us better prepared.” — BYU quarterback Jaren Hall.
“It (the score) is going to be 27, let’s go 27 to 14. I will give them 21 (points), maybe,” Ross-Turner said on the video. “Who’s winning, though?” Utah Tech. That’s about it, though, yeah.”
The product of San Diego’s Rancho Bernardo High School had a decent game, catching three passes for 49 yards. Redshirt sophomore Joey Hobert caught 11 passes for 100 yards and two touchdowns, and fellow receiver Deven Osborne caught three passes for 138 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an injury.
“Yeah, there were just some things that were said by them that our guys just really wanted to get to this game,” Sitake said.
BYU defensive back D’Angelo Mandell retweeted the tweet that included video of Ross-Turner making the prediction, but the post was later deleted.
But the message was received. Sitake said that was one reason the Cougars were penalized so much.
“I think the guys were a little upset. It got a little bit chippy because of some of the things that were said all week,” Sitake said.
“And so, our guys aren’t blind. They know what was being said, so they wanted to get after it, and they were a little physical, and it cost us some plays. But that is all right.
In the first half, Utah Tech’s “Spread-N-Shred” offense was potent, going for 20 points and 277 yards. In the second half, Ross-Turner and quarterback Victor Gabalis were kept in check.
Gabalis still threw for 340 yards and three TDs on the day, but Tech’s defense was no match for Jaren Hall and BYU’s offense. Hall threw for a career-high 456 yards and five touchdowns, with a passer rating of 216.6.
BYU had 28 points at halftime.
“Yeah, (what Ross-Turner said) was motivation. We definitely heard it. Media is everywhere nowadays. Everyone has a phone. You are not going to not hear something like that, so yeah, it definitely motivated us yesterday, seeing the quote, seeing the video,” Hall said.
“But that’s the game of football. People say stuff, and you gotta respond. Luckily for us it kinda put a fire beneath us and got us better prepared.”
Three of Hall’s touchdown passes went to Keanu Hill, who finished with 137 receiving yards.
“Me personally, I didn’t take too much from (the smack talk),” said Hill. “I just used it as another opportunity to get better and get to play a game of love.
“I didn’t really see (it). I don’t really take those things to heart or anything. It is just another day to get better. It is just another opponent that is in the way that we gotta get rid of.”
BYU defensive back Jakob Robinson, who had an interception that set up the touchdown that put BYU ahead 28-20, said he also ignored it.
“I just ignore anything they said, to be honest,” Robinson said.
As for the pick, Robinson said he wishes that outgoing senior Caleb Hayes could have gotten one, too. Mandell, another outgoing senior defensive back, was injured and did not play.
Senior Chris Brooks returned from a hamstring injury and posted 102 yards on 12 carries.
“I had 100 yards?” Brooks said, when told his totals, and then named a half-dozen or so athletic trainers who helped him get back.
“It felt great. I am so grateful to the BYU athletics staff. I love them so much. They were able to recover me in such a short amount of time. I feel blessed.”
Brooks said he was close to playing last week at Boise State, a 31-28 BYU win, but wasn’t back to 100%.
“This has been one of the best years of my life,” said the Cal transfer, when asked about his experience at BYU since enrolling last January.
“I can truthfully say that. I am so happy with the decision to come here. I thank God for giving me this experience every day.”