No. 13 BYU drops Independence Bowl to UAB, 31-28

SHREVEPORT, La. — No. 13 ranked Brigham Young University (BYU) finished the 2021 season at 10-3 following a 31-28 loss to the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in the Radiance Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana, Saturday.

The UAB Blazers (9-4) jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, and despite the Cougars coming back, the Blazers got the last score of the game and forced a late turnover to win it.

All-American running back Tyler Allgeier led a Cougar comeback and finished with 192 yards on 27 carries and three touchdowns. His season total of 1,601 rushing yards broke the BYU single-season rushing record, previously held by 2001 Doak Walker Award winner Luke Staley (1,582).

Quarterback Baylor Romney went 15 of 23 for 195 yards in the Cougar loss.

Linebackers Max Tooley and Ben Bywater led the Cougars defensively with ten and nine tackles, respectively. Tooley had six solo tackles and a pass breakup, while Bywater tallied five solo tackles and two tackles-for-loss. Hayden Livingston collected his second interception of the year late in the third quarter to end a UAB drive. Tyler Batty added 2.5 sacks.

First Quarter

BYU and UAB took the field in heavy rain and wind before trading three-and-outs on their first possessions of the game.

After a 43-yard punt from Ryan Rehkow, the Blazers’ began their second drive from the UAB 40-yard line picking up two quick first downs, which moved them down to the BYU 29-yard line. Dylan Hopkins completed a 15-yard pass to tight-end Tejhaun Palmer to the BYU 15. Hopkins wasted no time completing his next pass to Gerrit Prince for a 9-yard touchdown to give the Blazers a 7-0 lead with 6:26 left in the first quarter.

After assuming possession, Allgeier got his second touch of the game that went for a 14-yard gain and the first Cougar first-down. Baylor Romney completed his first pass of the game to Keanu Hill, who came up short of the first down, but a targeting call on UAB gave the BYU drive new life.

The Cougars lost yards on two of the following three plays and turned it over on downs, giving the ball back to the Blazers on their 35-yard line. On UAB’s first play from scrimmage, DeWayne McBride took it 64 yards to the house to extend the lead to 14 with 1:02 left in the first quarter.

Second Quarter

BYU’s offense leaned on Allgeier on its next drive, running nine total plays, eight of which were rushed by Allgeier. He accounted for all 72 yards on the Cougars’ first scoring drive that brought BYU within seven, with 12:44 left in the second quarter.

Two straight tackles-for-loss from Tyler Batty and Pepe Tanuvasa forced a punt for the Blazers.

On the next Cougar play, Baylor Romney took a shot completing a 37-yard pass to Gunner Romney to the UAB 13-yard line. After a roughing of the passer penalty on UAB moved the ball to the 2-yard line, Samson Nacua took a jet sweep around the left side of the line and in for the tying touchdown. With touchdowns on back-to-back possessions, the Cougars tied the game at 14.

The Blazers responded with a nine-play, 78-yard touchdown drive to put UAB up 21-14 with 3:18 left in half.

The Cougars tried to put together a closing drive to square the score at halftime, but a heave into the end zone fell incomplete, giving UAB a 21-14 halftime lead. 

Third Quarter

After a 10-yard first-down reception by Samson Nacua, Allgeier took his first touch of the second half to the house for a 62-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21 just 1:17 into the second half.

The BYU defense forced multiple third-and-long situations on UAB’s first drive of the second half. The Cougar defense eventually brought a blitz on third-and-13 resulting in Batty’s second sack. UAB opted to kick a field goal on fourth down, which gave the Blazers a 24-21 lead with 7:27 left in the third.

After BYU got stopped on fourth down, UAB  gave the ball back to the Cougars with an interception by Hayden Livingston off a tipped ball.

The Cougars took over at their 48-yard line and gave it to Allgeier on three straight plays down at the UAB 42. Baylor Romney found Samson Nacua for a nine-yard gain to the Blazer 33, where the Cougars would begin the fourth quarter with a. fresh set of downs and the score 24-21.

Fourth Quarter

The Cougars opened the fourth quarter with a shovel pass to Masen Wake for a 29-yard gain to the UAB 1-yard line. Allgeier took the handoff on the ensuing play and fought his way in for his third touchdown of the night to give the Cougars their first lead of the game, 28-24, with 14:33 to play. With three TDs on the day, Allgeier passed former Cougars Jamaal Williams and Jamal Willis for No. 2 all-time with 36 career touchdowns, tied with BYU running back coach Harvey Unga. Staley holds the BYU career record with 41. 

The Blazers again responded, going 75-yards, milking 8:16 off the clock, and scoring the go-ahead touchdown with 6:17 left in the game.

BYU received the kick and returned it to the 27-yard line, where it began the final drive of the game. After gaining six yards on the first three plays, the Cougars faced a 4th-and-4 from their 33-yard line. Kalani Sitake opted to go for it, and Romney found Wake on a screen pass for a 17-yard gain to the 50-yard line.

Following the fourth-down conversion, Romney completed a pass over the middle to Samson Nacua, but he fumbled the ball at the UAB 33, giving the Blazers the ball with 3:36 left.

UAB ran the ball on eight straight plays to milk the clock and end the game with the final score of 31-28 for the Blazers.

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