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Football Football Game Notes

BYU battles Utah State in regular-season finale Saturday

(Photo by BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – For the final game of the regular season, BYU football hosts in-state foe Utah State on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. MST, on ESPNU.

Prior to the game, BYU will honor 21 seniors that will be participating in their last game at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage of the game, beginning with Countdown to Kickoff starting at 7 p.m. MST. Postgame coverage runs for half an hour after the game on BYUtv.

Live coverage from LaVell Edwards Stadium will be on the Cougar IMG Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which can also be found on Sirius XM 143, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and BYUcougars.com. IMG’s radio coverage will begin at 6 p.m. MST.

BYU (7-4) vs. Utah State (3-8, 1-7 Mountain West)
Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016
Kickoff: 8:21 p.m MST
LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470)

BYU game notes

Utah State game notes

Notes

THE OLD WAGON WHEEL. This will be the 86th meeting between the two schools. The series dates back to 1922. BYU won the last meeting with a 51-28 win up in Logan last year and took home the Old Wagon Wheel. Defensive lineman Tomasi Laulile picked up a fumble and ran it back 37 yards for a touchdown just prior to halftime. The play sparked the Cougars to outscore the Aggies 27-7 in the second half. 

HEAD COACHES AT ALMA MATERS. Kalani Sitake and Matt Wells have the opportunity to serve as the head coach at their respective alma maters. Sitake was a fullback at BYU (1994, 1997-00) while Matt Wells was a quarterback for the Aggies (1993-96). The two are among only 19 of 128 FBS head coaches currently at their alma maters. 

NOVEMBER GAMES. BYU is 34-6 in the month of November over the past 10 seasons, including a perfect 18-0 at home during that time. The Cougars have not lost at home in November since 2005 when they fell 41-34 to Utah.

BALL HAWKS. BYU is the No. 1 team nationally in turnovers gained with 27 this year (18 interceptions, 9 fumbles).

BLACKOUT. BYU will be wearing its black uniform combination with black jerseys, black pants and black helmets. Fans are encouraged to come to the game wearing black. 

FIRST-YEAR FINISH. There were 19 coaches hired prior to this season making their FBS head coaching debuts in 2016 (including coaches with interim tags in previous years). Kalani Sitake is just one of six that can finish the regular season with a winning record in the first year. 

POINSETTIA BOWL. BYU has accepted an invitation to play in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl scheduled for 6 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium on Dec. 21. BYU is one of 10 teams that will go to a bowl game for a 12th consecutive season. Alabama, Boise State, Clemson, Florida State, Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Georgia and LSU are the other nine programs that extended their streak to 12 or more this season. The Cougars went to a program-record 17 bowl games in row from 1978 to 1994. BYU played in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012, defeating SDSU 23-6 behind two defensive touchdowns by Kyle Van Noy. For ticket information, visit BYUtickets.com or call 801-422-2981. 

Quotes

Head coach Kalani Sitake
Overall thoughts on the UMass game
After watching the film, it was a good second half of film. Some of the things that we were able to put together, especially the turnovers, were very nice to see. We still made a few mistakes, but I think that wasn’t as damaging as it was in the first half. I give a lot of credit to UMass—they were ready to play. They did some things to us defensively that put us on our heels a little bit. But after making adjustments and having the guys come out the second half, I thought it was a good game plan. We were able to put some points on the board. I’m really happy with the way the players played the game. I think we got better as a team again this week. We’re looking to finish the season out the right way for the seniors this Saturday.

What it means to finish the season off against an in-state rival
I think it will be fun to have the familiar faces, just like it was with Southern Utah and Utah. Knowing the guys and the fact that we’re close in proximity, and also close because there are a lot of guys that we know on that staff and the players know each other. I think the players will attest that that is key. We’re excited to play the game. We love playing the game of football and the fact that it will be against people we know makes it even more special.

Harvey Langi as running back?
We’ll see. Looking at practice today, Jamaal (Williams) looked good when he practiced and Squally (Canada) did too. We’ll see. I think there is a part of the scheme where Harvey would fit perfectly in what we’re trying to do. Obviously, if we’re able to get Jamaal back and have him be 100 percent, he’s our featured back. He’s a starter. The offense runs through him at running back and then we’ll see what happens. He’s got so much talent that we could put him in a lot of different places. 

On KJ Hall
KJ (Hall) has played really well the past couple of weeks and I think he’s earned a spot as well. Looking at what Ty (Detmer)’s trying to work, there are a lot of guys that you can put at running back. I don’t know if his services will be needed as much as they were last week, but you never know. 

Thoughts on Utah State
They have played in a lot of close games and have a lot of great athletes on the field. They’ve had some bad luck in some games. For us, you can’t focus on those games and what the result was. We need to focus on the great things they’ve done. They have the ability as an offense to really hurt you in the air and also hurt you in the run game. That makes it difficult. And defensively, they’ve done a great job in pass defense. They actually create pressure on the quarterback, whether it’s a three-man, four-man or even the blitzes. They are well-coached guys and special teams, same thing. We’re expecting a great team to come into our stadium and look forward to playing that game. 

Senior class
This year’s seniors are a great group. We’ve relied on them heavily, especially in my first year as a head coach, to be great leaders and keep the good things that they’ve already had established. I lean heavily on those seniors to basically be my voice of what I want to see in the program and from our coaching staff. They’ve been ideal, they’ve been perfect at whatever we’ve asked them to do. I think they can be really proud of what they’ve done here as leaders. I think it will show a lot in we do next year. I’m looking forward to having one more game at home with them. I know I haven’t had much time with them, but this year has been amazing, being able to connect with those seniors and connect with the team. From our coaching staff, I can speak for them when I say this is a special team and it’s been a special unit. The family atmosphere, the feeling we have and the bonds that we have will last a long time. 

Senior WR Mitchell Juergens
Practice today
It was good, your typical Monday. It was a little bit lighter of a day to get everyone’s legs back. But we went over some things. It was a good practice. I think everyone’s pretty fired up, ready to go for our last home game this season. We’re ready to finish the season with a bang.

Memories of playing Utah State
If you take the records away, it’s BYU versus Utah State. Both teams are going to come out ready to play. They’re going to come out hard. It’s not a guaranteed win for either team. It doesn’t matter what the record is—both teams need to be ready so you can be prepared to come away with a win. It’ll be a good matchup and we know they’ll come out strong, so we need to be prepared for that. 

Has the rivalry become stronger?
I would say yes, it’s become stronger. Every year I’ve played Utah State, it’s felt like a definite rivalry game. That’s what you’re going to get when you have two schools in the same state. There has been history. We’re playing for the Wagon Wheel and that’s a big thing. Every game, every year, it’s going to get a little more intense and that’s how you hope it goes. 

Approaching last game of the season differently?
In every game that comes, you want to play harder than you did before. You watch the film and recognize some of the mistakes you made and you want to clean those up. And especially this being the last game, I think there will be some added fire, especially for the seniors. Knowing they’re not going to be able to make up for any mistakes made. We just need to go out there and play our hardest, give it every single breath that they have and fight to the end. It’ll be a fun, emotional game, especially for the seniors. We’re ready to come out hard and play this game with no regrets. 

Senior WR Garrett Juergens
On his touchdown
It was exciting. I was glad to get an opportunity to make a play, and the best part was hearing everyone else excited for me. I’ve got a lot of good teammates, and it was good to celebrate with them. It was a perfect ball. We had worked on that kind of route all week, expecting it quick, so I knew it was an option. It executed just like we did in practice so it was nice.

Senior Day
There are a lot of emotions for sure just thinking about my whole journey here at BYU now coming to an end. I’ll be able to run out onto the field and think about how far I’ve come and obviously not lose sight of the game and what’s ahead, but taking a little moment to look back is going to be a neat experience. I’m looking forward to it.

On playing with his brother on Senior Day
It’s a dream come true. We said ever since we wanted to walk on and start our journey at BYU that we would do it together until the end, and sure enough it’s here. We hoped it would last this long, but I don’t know if we ever expected it. It’ll be really nice to be out there with him.

Utah State
They are a good team. Every time we come out to play it’s always a good game. We need to treat it like another game and treat it like we’ve treated every opponent. Definitely the in-state rivalry makes it more intense. But we can’t let that carry us away from the main objective of every game. With it being the last one against a good team, we just want to come out and perform well. We’ll have our last memories in that last game so we have to make sure we leave everything out on the field.

Senior DB Kai Nacua
It’s always fun to play an in-state team and try to win in state. It will be exciting to play against them because they are going to bring it and they always have. It will be a good game. I feel a little bit more energy than I would if it was somebody else, being an in-state team, and wanting to make sure we get the win.

Thoughts on this season and Senior Day
I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple weeks as I’ve been winding down. My last game at LES (LaVell Edwards Stadium), it’s going to be crazy. I know I’m going to enjoy the moment with the fans and my boys. I know it hasn’t hit me too hard yet but it will on game day. Every game walking out there and coming through the tunnel is a rush. I get goose bumps every time. I love the feeling.

Preparing for game time
I love challenges, especially hearing that we’re playing big teams or what people consider big teams. I feel like people see BYU and think, “Oh, it’s just BYU.” I want to go out there and show them we can contend with anyone, so it’s been cool. I have more of a mindset of going out and wanting to destroy other people, putting my name out there and making sure people fear the Y. We’re not coming in for an easy game.

Senior DL Sae Tautu
It’s weird. I can’t believe it will be our last time running out at the stadium. I’m trying not to think about it, but I guess the time is here so I have to. BYU has made me a better person. There aren’t too many programs you can go to in the country where you are surrounded by returned missionaries and people striving to be their best. I’ve made a lot of good friends here and that’s where I’m really lucky because I get to come here every day and hang out with my boys. They are a positive influence on me so I can go home to my wife and kids and be a better father.

On Utah State
I know we can’t sleep on them. We have to be prepared for this game and make sure we’re coming out just like we have every other week, ready to do our best and give them our best shot. We know they’ll do the same for us. They have nothing to lose so they will put it all out there.

On his development as a player this season
It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had a lot of opportunities this year to make plays, and I think I was ready for that earlier on in my career but circumstances didn’t allow me to come out and shine like I did this year. It’s been fun to be out there, getting sacks and making plays with my teammates. The Toledo game is where I feel like I turned it on this season and play my position more efficiently so I could make more plays.

On the senior class adjusting to the new coaching staff
Having that unity as a senior class and as a team before the coaches came in was an important thing for the success of this season. When they announced Kalani was going to be our coach, he was exactly what we asked for so it was easy to play for him and help him come in and take over. We already had the chemistry and leadership before he got here.

On Taysom and Jamaal as leaders
It’s awesome having them there. They are really important to us because we’ve seen them put their bodies on the line for us. How many quarterbacks do you know that are going to dip their shoulder and try to run over a middle linebacker? It’s not something you see every day. We love Taysom for that. We love the effort the he puts out for us. Same with Jamaal. I don’t know too many running backs in this country that pump their legs as hard as he does and fight for every blade of grass. When they speak, we listen because of the effort they put out for us.