PALO ALTO, Calif. (ABC4 Sports) – As tumultuous of a season it has been for the BYU football team, the Cougars are headed into a bowl game on a three-game winning streak.
Jaren Hall threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score to lead BYU to a 35-26 victory over Stanford on Saturday night.
The Cougars (7-5) scored touchdowns on their first four possessions to take control in their regular-season finale and assure themselves of a winning record for a fifth straight season.
Hall threw two TD passes to Isaac Rex, but BYU did much of its damage on the ground with 358 yards rushing against a depleted defense for the Cardinal (3-9).
Hall suffered an ankle injury in the third quarter and did not return, but head coach Kalani Sitake said x-rays were negative.
Chris Brooks ran for 164 yards a year after gaining 131 against Stanford in the Big Game for rival California. Hinckley Ropati added a 43-yard touchdown run and Puka Nacua scored on a 25-yard run.
Tanner McKee threw for 313 yards and a TD, and Mitch Leigber and Ashton Daniels scored on 1-yard runs for Stanford. But it wasn’t enough to prevent the Cardinal from posting back-to-back seasons with at least nine losses for the first time in school history.
The Cougars took control early with Hall capping a 75-yard game-opening drive with a 19-yard keeper.
Ropati then broke free for his long run on the second possession for BYU to make it 14-3 before Hall connected with Rex on the final two drives of the first half for the Cougars.
The first of those TDs came on a trick play when Hall handed off to Brooks, who flipped the ball to receiver Keanu Hill on a reverse. Hill flipped it back to Hall on a flea-flicker and Hall found Rex all alone down the sideline. Rex then ran it in for a 43-yard score that made it 21-3.
The Cougars played their final regular-season game as an independent. BYU heads to the Big 12 next season after a 12-year run without a conference. BYU had a winning record in 11 of those seasons but hopes joining a Power Five conference can make them more relevant on a national stage.
This was BYU’s first victory ever over Stanford in three tries.
BYU now awaits word on where it will be playing in a bowl game next month.