Arizona, BYU meet in Las Vegas as teams start anew

National Sports

Brigham Young and Arizona are opening transitional seasons from different angles and will intersect Saturday night at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

BYU is coming off a thrilling 11-1 season that produced No. 2 overall NFL draft pick Zach Wilson, as well as four other draftees. The Cougars will try to keep things rolling at quarterback with Jaren Hall, who prevailed in a three-way camp battle.

“He’s super consistent, so you know what to expect from him every single time,” said BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney, whose brother, Baylor, also competed at quarterback. “I think that consistency really helps people play into themselves.”

Hall, a sophomore, last saw game action in 2019, when he completed 31 of 46 passes for 420 yards in seven appearances.

Gunner Romney (39 catches, 767 yards, two touchdowns last season) will be a top target, and BYU has high expectations at receiver for brothers Puka Nacua (a transfer from Washington) and Samson Nacua (a Utah transfer).

Expect plenty of downhill running from a physical BYU ground game, led by Tyler Allgeier (1,130 rushing yards last season) and Lopini Katoa.

BYU finished No. 11 in the AP poll last season, but the quarterback transition and a rebuilding defense has tempered expectations to start 2021. Arizona, meanwhile, has almost no outside expectations heading into this neutral-site opener.

New coach Jedd Fisch inherited a team on a 12-game losing streak and one that is widely picked to finish last in the Pac-12 South.

Fisch spent the offseason energizing the fan base and football alums along with striking some impressive recruiting victories, but now the hard work begins. And it does so with questions at quarterback, where he expects Washington State transfer Gunner Cruz and Will Plummer to split time for now.

“We plan on playing both; how much we’re not sure yet,” said Fisch, who will be making his head coaching debut. “There’s certainly an opportunity for a little platoon system. Right now they’ve embraced it.”

Cruz made only one appearance in two seasons at Washington State; he has good size (6-foot-5) and arm strength for Fisch’s pro-style offense. Plummer made three appearances, with one start, last season as a freshman under head coach Kevin Sumlin.

The Wildcats’ defense was one of the nation’s worst last season (39.8 points allowed per game), but gets a makeover with new coordinator Don Brown, formerly of Michigan. Known as Dr. Blitz, Brown was one of the headlines of camp as he brings an attacking style to a team that lost 70-7 to rival Arizona State in its 2020 season finale.

–Field Level Media

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