TAMPA (ABC4 Sports) – BYUThe news keeps getting worse for the BYU football team.
Backup quarterback Jaren Hall, who was playing for the injured Zach Wilson, suffered concussion like symptoms and could not finish the game, as South Florida rallied for a 27-23 victory over the Cougars.
BYU has now lost three straight games to fall to 2-4 on the season.
Jordan Cronkrite ran for 158 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulls.
The Cougars took a 13-0 lead on two field goals by Jake Oldroyd and a 35-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Dax Milne.
The Bulls cut the deficit to 13-7 on a 39-yard scoring strike from Jordan McCloud to Mitchell Wilcox.
The Cougars led 16-7 at halftime before Cronkrite ran it in from a yard out to reduce the margin to two.
BYU responded with a 5-play, 70-yard drive in a little under two minutes and led 23-14 after Jaren Hall’s 29-yard TD run. Early in the fourth, McCloud ran it in from two yards out. Cronkrite closed out the scoring with a 3-yard run.
South Florida stiffened on defense after Hall’s touchdown. First, the Cougars went three-and-out and gained a yard. BYU picked off South Florida on its next possession but went minus-8 yards in four plays before fumbling the ball away. A BYU missed field goal followed and the Cougars’ final two possessions resulted in turnovers on downs.
Then Hall had to leave the game with concussion-like symptoms.
“He wasn’t able to go and the training room said he was out,” head coach Kalani Sitake said.
Baylor Romney took over at quarterback and almost led a dramatic comeback.
Down four with just over a minute to go in the fourth quarter, BYU got the ball on their own 26-yard line. Romney led an impressive drive, moving the Cougars down the field. A 22-yard pass to Gunner Romney and a 17-yard pass to Talon Shumway moved BYU to USF’s 27-yard line.
A pass interference call on the Bulls moved the chains and put BYU on the USF 12-yard line. However, two incomplete passes and a sack pushed BYU back to the 20 yard-line on fourth down with four seconds left on the clock.
In the final play of the game, Romney threw the ball into a crowded end zone and two Bull’s players were able to bat the ball away from BYU’s receivers, ending the game 27-23.
“We marched down the field, but we’ve just got to punch it in,” Sitake said.
In his first career start at quarterback, Hall, who became the first African-American to start at quarterback in BYU history, went 15 for 23 with 148 yards and a touchdown while also being BYU’s leading rusher with 16 carries for 83 yards and one touchdown.
Lopini Katoa added 73 yards rushing on 11 carries.
Talon Shumway was BYU’s leading receiver with 4 catches for 56 yards.
The Cougars out gained USF in total offense with 439 yard to 315. BYU also won the turnover battle with two takeaways, including a fumble recovery by Isaiah Kaufusi and an interception by Chaz Ah You.
But the Cougars struggled in the red zone, having to settle for three field goals.
BYU next hosts Boise State Saturday night at 8:15 p.m.