BYU travels to Arizona for Cactus Kickoff
PROVO, Utah – BYU football starts the 2016 season in Glendale, Arizona for the Cactus Kickoff against the Arizona Wildcats on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 7:30 p.m. MST (Mountain Standard Time) at the home of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals–University of Phoenix Stadium. The game will be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1.
Please note that Glendale, Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time and observes Mountain Standard Time all year. If viewing the game from Utah, the game kicks at 8:30 p.m. MDT (Mountain Daylight Time).
Fans can tune in for live coverage on the Cougar IMG Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which can be found on Sirius XM 143, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and BYUcougars.com. IMG’s radio coverage will begin at 5:30 MST (6:30 p.m. MDT).
BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage with Countdown to Kickoff starting at 6:30 p.m. MST (7:30 p.m. MDT). Postgame coverage runs for half an hour after the game.
BYU (0-0) vs. Arizona (0-0, 0-0 Pac 12)
Saturday, Sept. 3, 2016
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. MST (8:30 p.m. MDT)
University of Phoenix Stadium (63,400)
SERIES HISTORY. BYU and Pac-12 foe Arizona last faced off in the 2008 Las Vegas Bowl with the Wildcats picking up a 31-21 victory. The two teams have matched up 22 times. BYU is 9-12-1 against Arizona, with an 0-1 record at a neutral site. The teams opened the season against each other in 2006 and 2007, splitting the opening games with Arizona winning in 2006 and BYU winning in 2007. BYU has opened its season five times against Arizona, going 2-2-1 in those games.
HEAD COACHING DEBUT. Head coach Kalani Sitake is making his head coaching debut. He is one of 19 new FBS head coaches coaching in their first game. Sitake is just BYU’s fourth head coach since 1972. Bronco Mendenhall dropped his opener in 2005 to Boston College but Gary Crowton defeated Tulane 70-35 in 2001 and LaVell Edwards won in 1972 against Kansas State 32-9. Another BYU head coach made his debut against Arizona, Tally Stevens in 1959. Stevens won 18-14.
PAC-12. The Cougars are facing an opponent from the Pac-12 in a season opener for the fifth time since 2006. BYU faced Arizona in 2006 and 2007, Washington in 2010 and Washington State in 2012. BYU is 3-1 in season openers against the Pac-12 in that time span. BYU is also playing its first three games of the 2016 season against Pac-12 teams, all from the south division.
The following quotes are from Monday's post-practice press briefing from head coach Kalani Sitake and select players.
Head coach Kalani Sitake
Thoughts on game week
It feels great. We had a great practice this morning, feeling good. The legs are fresh. We’re going through the week and getting in season mode. Everyone’s really excited, myself included. The fun of game one is you don’t know what’s going to happen. There will be a lot of adjustments made during the game from the first series to the next. This is why we have a great coaching staff and why we communicate with our players. We’ll see who can make the best adjustments during the game.
Thoughts on Arizona
They’re difficult, especially with all of their skill and how they spread the ball offensively. Rich Rodriguez has seen every defense out there, and so they know how to attack you. For us, it’s a matter of execution and making sure we’re assignment sound. That kind of offense tests you on the ground and in the throw game. We have to be a disciplined defense in order to defend them. Defensively, they’re a good team too. They have a great coaching staff - I’ve known that coaching staff for a long time and it’ll be fun.
What makes Arizona so good offensively
The pace combined with the talent. Like I said before, they spread the ball around. It’s a nice system and you need a quarterback who knows how to handle it, and they have two. I imagine they’ll be difficult to defend. If we do things as a team offensively and special teams-wise, we should be OK.
Finally getting to the season after fall camp
I’m excited to coach for BYU and be in this position. Once we get to game day, it’s always been about the players and about the team. I’m excited to watch them play. This is their team and we’re going to have a lot of fans there, so I’m excited for the moment. But this is not about me as the head coach. It’s about our program and I’m excited about our players, especially the seniors and the leadership we’ve seen. I look forward to those guys leading this team into this first game.
Preparing for Arizona’s two QBs
We’re preparing for both quarterbacks. It’s just like Tanner (Mangum) and Taysom (Hill). They have their strengths and their weaknesses, but I think they’re really strong in the system they run. They’re similar in a lot of ways. One might throw better than the other and one might be a better runner, but it’s been a long time since the bowl game. They’ve had a lot of time to improve. I’ve seen players improve a bunch in a matter of weeks, and they’ve been given months, so we’ll prepare for the best quarterback that can run and throw at the same time. We’ll see who shows up.
Nervous for Saturday?
I’ve been more nervous for a lot of different things, but I feel confident in our guys. I feel really confident in our guys and the talent we have. It’s not about me. As a coach, I’m excited and ready to go. More than anything, we’ve been waiting a long time and this is like Christmas. Our guys are ready. I’m really happy about what they did in the offseason. I’m looking forward to them showing what they did and their hard work and sacrifice paying off on Saturday.
Fan turnout against Saturday
We have the best fans ever. We have fans all over the world. It was evident when we went and did our firesides throughout the country at the destinations we will be playing. We’re going to have fans at every game wherever we play. Arizona happens to be a place where we have a lot of fans and we’re looking forward to them making a lot of noise. We have to give them reason to rise and shout.
Confident in physicality of both lines?
That’s why we hit the weight room harder than we’ve ever done before. We felt like we needed to get that edge on the line of scrimmage and we did some unique things to get our guys ready. If you ask our players, we squatted more than any team. I can tell you confidently, we squatted more than any team in the country and we ran more stairs than them. So that built a lot of strength. We lifted every day. We did the same thing in camp. If you want to get bigger, stronger and have confidence, the weight room is the best place to do it. All of our guys worked out and our o-line gained weight and are big and strong.
Senior QB Taysom Hill
On getting on the field and completing a game
I’m ready. I don’t think about how long it’s been since I’ve completed a game or all that stuff. I’m looking forward to being back out on the field with the team and being in a venue like we’ll be in in Arizona. I can’t wait.
On being named a captain again
The biggest thing is that it’s humbling when your teammates choose you to represent them. I’ll do my best to represent them on the field. It’s humbling to have that responsibility and I certainly don’t take it lightly. I look forward to the opportunity.
New relationships with receivers
There was a group of us last year, Mitch (Mathews) was one of those guys that I was super close with, and some of those guys are still here like Mitch and Garrett Juergens. I went through the entire finance program with them, so I probably spent more time with them than anyone on the team. We’d study till midnight some nights. Nick Kurtz is another guy who was part of that group. There was a tight knit group that was there last year and those guys are back. We have a lot of good friends and good chemistry that we’ve built on and off the field.
On Arizona’s defense
They’re a good football team. They’re a little smaller upfront, but they’re quick and agile and I think they do that on purpose so they can get up the field and get after the QB. They have some really good football players and it’ll be a good challenge for us. I’m excited and looking forward to the challenge. My brother played at Arizona State, and so he texted me the other day about when he played Arizona and what to expect and his experience playing those guys. I’m excited and we’re ready to go. I can’t wait
On offense clicking in the past and the difficulty this year
What we did at UConn and what we did at Nebraska was we had some key guys who had been in the program and on offense for a long so we had been in game situations so there really wasn’t that learning curve. I still think there are a lot of unknowns this year. We certainly have guys who have been in game situations and have a lot of experience so that will help, but this is also the first time we’ve ran this offense. There are still a lot of unknowns out there. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off and score points right from the get go, but you just never know.
Senior DB Kai Nacua
On being named team captain
It’s a lot of responsibility and I’m really excited to take that role on. It’s my first time being a captain for this team. I’m going to do what I can and they know I’ll do whatever I can to help this team. It was really cool when coach announced it.
Knowing Arizona quarterback Anu Solomon
I grew up with him and played football with him. I played against him twice in high school. He played at Bishop Gorman and I played him in the state semi and in the championship. I lost both times, but it’s alright.
On the challenge of playing against Arizona
I love challenges. I always step up to them and take them very seriously. If someone wants to challenge me to something I’ll give them everything I got and make sure I leave it on the field, especially for my team and to make sure after the game I’m not like I should have done this or that. I want to be able to say I did everything I could and I have no regrets at all.
What feelings the coaches instill headed into the first game
Ready to wake the beast. Everyone stay calm and focus on what we need to focus on. Don’t let outside things get in the way and when game day comes unleash that beast and let it roll.
Difference it makes having lots of fans at road games
Whatever we do it’ll feel just like a home game to be honest. A lot of the guys have already been talking about it and we’re ready to feel the energy from the crowd so it will be good.
Senior DL Harvey Langi
On being named team captain
For me, it honestly humbles me. Coach Kalani asked everyone to write names down for those who they thought would best lead the team. There are 105 guys on the team and there’s a lot of them that motivate me and inspire me to be a better person. A lot of people wrote my name down, so hopefully I can be that guy for them. I just feel like I am more of a spokesman for the team. I don’t really feel like I’m different or that I am on a pedestal or anything. I just feel like if the team wants to talk, they just tell me and I will go talk. It is humbling and it allows me to know that there are some eyes looking at me from the team and there are some guys that look up to me and I look up to them as well. It’s a great feeling.
Starting off a new era of BYU football
Hype is cheap and talk is cheap. Sitake is a great coach, a great guy, a great man and a great friend. He’s come here and done a lot for us, but football is football. There is always a winner and a loser and he’s going to try his best to help us win. All of us are going to follow his lead and to do the things that he has taught us to get the wins we want this year. It’s a great change for BYU. But again, hype is hype. Every team in the country right now is trying to get hyped up and the biggest thing our team can do is work. We have five days until the hype can be settled and in these five days, all we can do is prepare and work.
How do you slow down Arizona?
I don’t know, but I’m going to try to sack the quarterback. They are a great team and they move fast. They have a lot great athletes on their team. To slow them down, everyone needs to be assignment sound and run to the ball. We need to take advantage of the opportunities to take away or stop the ball. We will try to force them to have their defense out more than their offense, so hopefully we can do that.
If you were to give us Harvey’s top 3 keys to winning against Arizona, what would you say?
My three keys would be to get some sleep, maybe drink a gallon of water, and go to class so that you can play. Maybe score more points than the other team. That would be my fourth key point.
Biggest strength of BYU defense?
The biggest strength is that we are very close-knitted this year. There are a lot of guys trusting each other, playing on the same side of the football, and just working together creates a great culture on this team. We have built a type of strength that a lot of people don’t see. A lot of people want to see a sack or a guy going off in tackles. When the whole side of the defense is tight knit like we are and just helps everyone do their job and to make plays and get excited when a teammate makes plays, the defense as a whole is very strong. We can’t always just choose a couple of players or a couple of positions that hold the defense. We have to do it together. Our whole defense holds the responsibility.
On fans traveling to Arizona
We need any and all fans. Fans make us feel cool and make us feel like the all-stars that we usually aren’t. The fans are the ones that keep us going. Of course, there are personal fans like parents and all of that, but all the other fans that are out there supporting us, we really appreciate them. We play not only for our family and university and team, but we play for the fans. That’s what fall is all about- getting the T-shirts and foam fingers and coming out to the games. We need all the fans we can get to come out here and have some fun.