Football is the sport that takes the most planning. There are big game books and long hours of study of detail-obsessed movies and practices that lead to literal scripts of how coaches envision a game. And then they start up and a lot of it goes straight to the dumpster.
This is one of the great beauties of the game. Prepare for anything, then react on the fly when the preparation no longer applies. Heroism can come suddenly and unexpectedly. Spontaneity can still prevail.
Across the landscape of a typically unruly college football weekend, spontaneity won two consecutive days, September 17-18. Two jaw-dropping games with raw instincts that have deeply impacted games – and perhaps seasons, ultimately. Two pieces thousands of miles apart that drove the crowds home crazy, and that both fan bases are still talking about today (maybe losing fans are too).
One of them arrived late Friday night, perpetrated by a running back turned linebacker who instantly became a running back. Time: 10:57 p.m. ET. The other arrived late Saturday night, perpetrated by a linebacker turned linebacker returning to a linebacker at the time. Time: 22:56 MT.
This is the kind of improvised serendipity that sports produce. All the time.
Game 1 was in the Central Florida-Louisville game. The undefeated Knights had just recovered a assist from Malik Cunningham in Louisville territory with barely 24 seconds left in a tied game. The last chance to gain in regulation apparently belonged to UCF, who only needed a first try to get into the potential goal range.
Quarterback Dillon Gabriel threw an underlying route towards Amari Johnson, whose focus may have been affected by a Louisville lineman falling into cover. The ball got out of Johnson’s hands, and freshman Jaylin Alderman was the linebacker in the right place at the right time. Except he really wasn’t meant to be in the game.
That moment under pressure was his first game of defense this game, having helped cover the kickoff. It was only the fifth or sixth game of his college career defensively, with just one mop-up tackle against Eastern Kentucky under his belt. Alderman was thrown into this urgent situation by an injury to starting linebacker Monty Montgomery, then ended up with that gift from the football gods: a spilled ball falling into his hands on the Louisville 34-yard line.
That’s when Alderman’s high school running back instincts kicked in (he played both ways but was drafted as a linebacker, Louisville being his only serious Power 5 contender). The 5 ’11 “, 215 pounds from the football home in Valdosta, Ga., Sprinted to the straight sideline, past the delusional Louisville bench, and continued to sprint until he was in the zone. goals. little speed in me, âsaid Alderman Illustrated sports. âWhen the ball fell into my hands I knew I had to try to score. It was really like muscle memory.
The only UCF player to shoot him was the hapless Johnson, who was easily sidelined just before the goal line. Suddenly Jaylin Alderman had gone from virtual anonymity to a savior in the time it took him to walk 66 yards. âI went back to the locker room and looked at my phone, and got an alert from the ESPN app – and it was about me,â Alderman says. âIt was amazing, the dream came true. I became crazy.
For a downcast Louisville fan base, it was an adrenaline rush. After a promising first season under coach Scott Satterfield, the schedule fell back to 4-7 in 2020. Then Satterfield flirted with work in South Carolina, eroding the love affair he had. had in the city. Meanwhile, the men’s basketball program had been rocked by scandal and had just missed a rare NCAA tournament.
Not much had gone well in a long time until Alderman showed up late last Friday. It didn’t take long for the jokes “alderman for mayor” to circulate in the city.
Game # 2 was in the Arizona State-BYU game. The undefeated Sun Devils were, despite their own penalty incompetence, dragged the road in Provo. They had scored 10 points in the third quarter to reduce a deficit from 21-7 to 21-17, and they had just put pressure on Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall to make a most regrettable decision.
With a tackle wrapped around his leg, Hall attempted to throw a pitch toward a receiver along the sideline. Linebacker Merlin Robertson raised his hands to intercept it, then headed for the end zone about 70 yards. That’s when running back Tyler Allgeier took matters into his own hands. Or the fist.
Allgeier, who had been in the backfield to protect the pass on the play, set off after Robertson. After initially bumping into Hall and nearly falling, Allgeier said it didn’t take long to realize he was faster than the ASU linebacker, and that it was only a matter of time before let him catch up with him. But then what? âHe wasn’t going to score,â Allgeier told SI. “So I just thought, ‘What are the chances of me undressing him? “”
Then Allgeier – who spent the 2019 season recording 26 tackles to linebacker for BYU because he couldn’t back-run onto the court – did something straight out of the stunt action movie playbook. . It was actually better than that, because you could do 1,000 takes and never do it perfectly.
Allgeier grabbed Robertson’s left shoulder, jumped onto his back and threw a downward right hand punch that knocked the ball down so cleanly it was right there on the grass at Lavell Stadium Edwards as an Easter egg to be discovered. Quite quickly, the pushing Hall made up for his pitch error by falling on the ball. BYU retained both possession and the lead, the latter for the remainder of the night.
âI was literally trying to do my eleventh,â says Allgeier, with admirable modesty. âI’ve never done this before or practiced this before – it was an untrained punch. But now I have this in my arsenal.
Now he has folk hero BYU in his arsenal, especially if this undefeated season continues to turn in the right direction. If he doesn’t make this play, the Cougars could well fall behind and could well lose. But he made this game, and now they have three wins over Pac-12 opponents with three other Power 5 opponents plus unbeaten Boise State and Utah State on the schedule.
After an 11-1 season in 2020 that didn’t spark any serious consideration for the college football playoffs, BYU could bring a better resume this year. But if the Cougars hadn’t beaten Arizona State, no one would care. And if Allgeier hadn’t been able to change the game, they might not have beaten Arizona State.
Truly, Allgeier’s entire academic career has been a long play. Recruited by almost no one of significance from Fontana, Calif., He was considering taking a partial scholarship to Division II Southern Nazarene in Oklahoma when he got the chance to visit BYU. Coach Kalani Sitake offered him a preferred replacement position. Allgeier had loved the visit. He looked at his mother, who gave him her blessing. âWe’ll get there if you put 110% into it,â she told him.
He received a full scholarship after the 2019 season, his second at BYU. âI’m betting on myself,â he said. It was the year he played linebacker and special teams. Last year he returned to running back and led the team on the ground with 1,130 yards and touchdowns with 13. This year he’s on track for another 1,000-yard season.
But for now, the first play most people will remember when it comes to Allgeier is where he went back to his defensive instincts and delivered the immaculate punch. He expressed the hope of every college football player – every athlete, really – and the optimism they must embrace in every competition: âYou literally never know when your time will come. “
Amidst the chaos of a room deviating from the storyline, suddenly this can be your moment. Be ready.
More college football coverage:
â¢ Choice of week 4: who will end September with a victory?
â¢ Can Cincinnati take the Group of 5 to new heights?
â¢ Five sets of conference titles new faces could crash
â¢ What would a group of 12 teams look like after week 3?