Postgame Notes: BYU vs. Southern Utah

The following are postgame notes and quotes from BYU football's 41-16 win over Southern Utah on Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

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PROVO, Utah — The following are postgame notes and quotes from BYU football's 41-16 win over Southern Utah on Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

ALUMNI FLAGS: Jason Speredon (OL, 2006-10), Aaron Wagner (2005-06, 2010), Jadon Wagner (LB, 2007-11)

TEAM FLAGS: Talmage Gunther (WR), Marcus McKenzie (CB), Sonny Makasini (OL)

SERIES RESULTS: 2-0 (after today’s result)

Attendance: 60,834

TEAM NOTES

  • Scoring Defense
    • After holding the Thunderbirds to three points in the first half, it became the first time since 2012 that BYU’s defense opened the first six quarters of a season without allowing a touchdown (Washington State, Weber State).
    • First time holding opponents scoreless in the first half in back-to-back contests since Oct. 31 and Nov. 6, 2020 in wins over Western Kentucky and Boise State
  • Special Teams Success
    • A blocked punt by linebacker Harrison Taggart gave the Cougars their first since wide receiver Keanu Hill blocked a punt vs. Idaho State in 2021
    • The Cougars capitalized on a muffed punt after Marcus McKenzie recovered the ball on Southern Utah’s 39-yard line in the fourth quarter.
  • Spreading the Ball
    • Slovis racked up four touchdown passes to four different receivers for the first time since a victory over Idaho State in 2021 (Jaren Hall).
    • Eight receivers recorded at least one grab on the afternoon.
  • Forcing Turnovers
    • BYU forced two turnovers (fumble, interception) to move its season total to five
  • Attacking through the Air
    • The Cougars totaled 348 yards passing, outpacing Southern Utah’s 262 to post its highest receiving total since 456 yards vs. Utah Tech last season

PLAYER NOTES

  • Kedon Slovis
    • First time with four touchdown passes or more since a five-touchdown performance vs. UCLA in 2020
    • 42-yard touchdown sling to Darius Lassiter became his 12th-career touchdown pass of 40 yards or more
    • Recorded third-career rushing touchdown, with all taking place at BYU (two vs. Sam Houston last week)
    • All four touchdown passes were to different receivers (Rex, Hill, Lassiter, Roberts)
  • Isaac Rex
    • 20-yard touchdown reception tied the late Gordon Hudson, a College Football Hall of Fame inductee, for No. 1 among all BYU tight ends with 22 career touchdown catches. The catch also moved him to No. 8 all-time among all receivers in touchdown receptions.
    • Second reception of the game (16 yards) with 2:38 remaining in the first quarter moved Rex to 1,011 career receiving yards, becoming the 72nd BYU player to top 1,000 receiving yards.
    • Hauled in 112 receiving yards in the first half, including a career-long, 65-yard reception to top his previous 43-yard catch vs. Stanford in 2022
  • Parker Kingston
    • 44-yard kickoff return was the longest BYU kickoff return since Lopini Katoa’s 48-yarder in 2019 vs. Washington
    • Hauled in a career-long reception of 19 yards in the second quarter
  • Darius Lassiter
    • Career-long, 42-yard touchdown grab for his fifth-career receiving score and first as a Cougar for the Eastern Michigan transfer
  • Ben Bywater
    • Led BYU in tackles for the fourth-consecutive game and 12th on his career.

NOTABLE CAREER HIGHS/CAREER FIRSTS

  • Ethan Slade
    • Career-high seven tackles
  • Kamden Garrett
    • First career interception. He had four pass break-ups in his four-year career with Weber State
  • Sione Moa
    • Recorded first tackle of career, totaling two
  • First career quarterback hurries were recorded by
    • Harrison Taggart
    • Crew Wakley
  • Career-high tackles:
    • Blake Mangelson (T-4)
    • Tanner Wall (3)
    • Marcus McKenzie (2)

POSTGAME QUOTES

Head coach Kalani Sitake

On the game overall
“We are 2-0. It wasn’t the best game, but I saw some really promising things. Obviously, I would like to play better in all three phases. I am thankful for some of the plays that the guys made to put some points on the board for the offense. We will keep getting better from now until next week when we are on the road. For the most part, I’m happy we got the win.”

On Southern Utah
“I want to give a lot of credit to Southern Utah and Coach Fitzgerald. He always gets his team ready to play, and you can see that on film. They will never quit and are a physical team. That’s their identity, and I wish them the best of luck the rest of the way.”

On the biggest improvement from game one
"If you give Kedon the time to throw, he can do it. We need to find ways to keep him upright, because when he is there, and can throw and deliver the ball, all within the right timing, he is really good. Now he is getting a lot of confidence running the ball. I think that was a good pull that he did in the game to get a rushing touchdown. I do like him throwing the ball though. He is really clean, and we need to find ways to compliment what he can do on offense so that we aren’t predictable and aren’t just relying on his arm.”

On Marcus McKenzie
“He is a playmaker. When his brother gets home from his mission, it is going to be nice because we will have two McKenzies doing work. They have great genetics. I blocked for his dad, and his mom was a track athlete here. He is almost beating the kick down the field, and that is hard to do. He has a ton of speed and a lot of confidence. He is going to be a great player for us. Good things happen when he is in the game.”

On the running game
“I want to see the ball carried with more intensity and get more yards. We need someone who can carry and do it the right way. We also need someone who can block for them and make sure we get more yards, because what we got is not good enough. It doesn’t matter who the defense is, we are better than that and we have to figure it out.”

On Darius Lassiter
“He is awesome, and it's not just his playmaking ability. With his positivity and personality, you can’t help but want to be around him. He did a great job today. I know that there was one play that he wishes he had back, but other than that, I thought he blocked better, caught the ball and found ways to get open.”

Linebacker Max Tooley

On changing the momentum through the first quarter
“You always want to start fast, and sometimes it doesn’t always go your way, but my mentality through camp and the season is ‘There’s going to be a next play.’ It doesn’t matter what happened or if they scored. You know you’re gonna play the next play like it’s 0-0.”

On the progress the defense has made this year
“I think you could definitely tell a different sense of urgency with the tone of our defense. It’s cliche but ‘guys are firing around’ and trying to gain tackle. I think that’s what’s going to make a defense aggressive — it’s being willing to impose your will on the other team every play, and make them quit. 

On playing with Isaac Rex
“It’s great seeing Isaac running around out there, making big plays and big third down conversions. He’s always been one of those reliable guys ever since he was a freshman. He’s going to go up and make a play on the ball. He’s going to go get the extra yards that we need. He’s sacrificing his body jumping over dudes. It’s just the way he plays. We can always count on him.”

On only one sack through two games
“We trust our scheme. We trust our defense. It’s going to take trusting each other to do their job you know. We saw tonight that the quarterback wanted to get rid of that ball quick. So you know when a guy is trying to get the all inside it’s going to be harder to get sacks on regardless of what we got going on. 

Cornerback Marcus McKenzie

On the defense being ready with a difficult schedule ahead
“Coach Hill and all the other coaches get us right. This is the most prepared we’ve ever been for games. I’m just excited to play with my boys.”

On making big plays on special teams
“I’m just grateful for the opportunity. Coach gave me the opportunity to go out and play, and I have an easy job: Run down there and try to tackle the guy. I’m trying to keep the momentum going. Even with the commercial breaks and the other team trying to change the tempo, being able to have the opportunity to go out there and get the momentum on our side is exciting.”

On where he can improve as a corner
“I think it’s on me understanding the fundamentals of things, alignment and technique. Once I’m able to master that, I can earn the coaches’ trust to get there.

Quarterback Kedon Slovis

On the biggest difference from last week to this week
“I think we just came out and played better and executed. That’s the team that I have seen all fall camp, and that’s the offense that we are. We still have a lot of plays out there and yards on the field. It wasn’t a perfect game, by any means, but I’m proud of the guys, and when adversity hit, I thought we did a pretty good job executing.”

On Isaac Rex
“He’s awesome and he’s done a great job ever since I’ve been here. I’m so happy that he’s been more confident and healthy in his ankle. I know last year was a struggle for him and he’s been through a lot of adversity. He’s a huge target out there for me, does the right thing, he’s really smart and makes my job a lot easier.”

On three-straight touchdown drives
“I think we were doing a pretty good job. We were about to convert two third-and-longs and we just had the penalty that kind of took us off the field. I felt pretty confident in the offense as a whole and things just started working out for us. We kept chugging away and shooters shoot and eventually the shots start to fall. I just got to keep trusting the process, the calls and scheme. I really opened up and we went to the wristband obviously knowing that they know our calls and our offense pretty well and I think that definitely helped us to and made thing easier.”

On the schedule moving forward
“It’s going to be a new challenge every week and there’s going to be some games where we play some really good defenses and I think that’s why I am here. I am up for the challenge and I am excited for the challenge. I’d take the guys on our side of the field with me anywhere and against anybody. I love our offense, scheme and players. It’s a great challenge and it’ll start to ramp up here starting next week and getting into conference play, but I know that we are all really excited for the challenge.”

Tight end Isaac Rex

On his 65-yard pass reception from Slovis
“That was probably one of the best throws I’ve ever seen in my time here. We rewatched it back in the locker room, and I finally noticed how there were three guys around, but Kedon put it in the perfect spot and I was able to go get it. The safety was playing pretty low, so I kept it high. I was just focused on the ball. That was quite the throw. It was awesome.”

On tying the career-record for touchdowns by a BYU tight end
“I would be lying if I said it didn't mean a lot. I’ve grown up being a huge BYU fan coming to all of the games. I’ve looked up to players like Dennis Pitta, my dad of course and even old Gordon Hudson highlights.  It has been a dream of mine to play this position and this school. To get a record like that is really cool for me. I don’t take it lightly. I realize that this is a team sport, and I try to do my job every play. But, to have a stat in the record books is really cool and I can’t deny that.”

On LJ Martin
“He is a very naturally gifted running back. His legs remind me of Saquon Barkley. I felt like the running backs did a great job all over the place today. Deion [Smith] and Aidan [Robbins] have been great too. LJ is going to be a staple on this offense for years to come. We are excited to continue to play with him and all the other running backs.”

On his injury status
“I feel a lot healthier. My doctor has been amazing, with a surgery in the offseason. It will never be 100% sadly due to the nature of the injury. But, I just love playing football so I am excited with how it is feeling lately.”

 

SOUTHERN UTAH QUOTES

Head coach DeLane Fitzgerald

Opening Statement
“Special teams did us in. Special teams doomed us. We gave up a 40- or 50-yard kickoff return in the first half and gave up a blocked punt in the first half. We came out in the second half and left four points on the board and missed a makeable field goal for that young man (Tyler Graham), and he didn’t even give us a college-level kick there which hurt us. And we missed a PAT.”

On Ryan Rehkow
“BYU has got one of the best punters, if not the best punter in the country. He’s usually kicking them 50 to 60 yards out, and then he shanks one off the side of his foot for a 27-yarder that hits our guy in the back of the head for another turnover. Our special teams did us in. Without those errors, I think we’re right there with them.”