BYU hosts Portland State in season opener
PROVO, Utah – BYU football starts the 2017 season hosting the Portland State Vikings on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised nationally on ESPN.
Fans can tune in for live coverage on the BYU Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which can be found on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM and BYUCougars.com. The radio coverage will begin at 11 a.m. MDT.
BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage with Countdown to Kickoff starting at 12 p.m. MDT. Postgame coverage runs for half an hour after the game.
BYU (0-0) vs. Portland State (0-0)
Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017
Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. MDT
LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470)
WEEK ZERO. BYU is playing in a "week zero" game, a game coming the week before the majority of college football season kicks off. It is the 12th time the Cougars have kicked off in August and just the third "week zero" game. BYU is 8-3 in August season openers.
FCS OPPONENTS. BYU is 7-0 against FCS opponents over the past 10 seasons, with the last victory coming against Southern Utah in 2016.
SEASON OPENERS. BYU has been successful in season openers, going 9-1 over the past 10 seasons. In those 10 games, BYU has defeated opponents from the Pac-12, Big 12, SEC and Big Ten. The Cougars have opened against an FCS team just once in the past 10 years, defeating Northern Iowa 41-17 in 2008 at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
OPENING AT HOME. Since going independent (2011 first season), BYU has opened the season at home just one other time. Washington State visited LaVell Edwards Stadium in 2012 in what was then head coach Mike Leach's first game with Wazzou. BYU held Leach and Washington State without a touchdown, winning 31-6 behind one of the Cougar defenses in recent memory.
HONORING LAVELL. Legendary hall of famer and beloved head coach at BYU for 29 seasons, LaVell Edwards, passed away on Dec. 29, 2016. The always steady and humble coach will be honored in several ways throughout the season, including the team wearing a uniform patch featuring the classic stoic profile he displayed for decades on the Cougar sidelines.
REPLACING THE PAST. BYU is replacing a few mainstays from the last few seasons, including the school's all-time leading rusher, Jamaal Williams. Both Williams and quarterback Taysom Hill, who started 33 games, are with the Green Bay Packers while safety Kai Nacua, now with the Browns, is also gone. Experienced junior Tanner Mangum steps into the quarterback position while a stable of running backs looks to churn up yards on the ground, led by junior Squally Canada. Safeties Zayne Anderson, Tanner Jacobson and others will look to emerge at the safety spot.
LOOKING FOR 10TH WIN. With a win over Portland State, Kalani Sitake could earn his 10th career win as a head coach after going 9-4 in his first season. In 2016, out of 19 first-year FBS head coaches, he was just one of six to have a winning record.
The following quotes are from Monday’s post-practice briefing from head coach Kalani Sitake and select players.
Head coach Kalani Sitake
On game week
"There is a lot of excitement this week going into game one. The guys are anticipating the opening of the season and are looking forward to hitting someone else. We started scouting Portland State last week, so we feel like have a good jumpstart on everything. We have a good look at our scout teams today, and practice was really good for us. I think the guys are ready to roll. They have been preparing for this the whole offseason and it’s 'go' time."
On taking it one game at a time
"The players are doing a great job on focusing on this game and not looking ahead. I don’t have to remind them that it’s game one. This group of guys is mature and I don’t have to work too hard to keep them focused on what we are planning on, and that is Portland State. I think the guys are excited to get out there and play at home and have our crowd help us out. They are focused on Portland State, and that is the only focus we have right now."
On the Portland State offense
"Coach Barnum has done a great job. I think they return a bunch of offensive lineman. They actually have upset a couple FBS schools. They know how to be ready to play right away, and we are aware of that and we know that their head coach is an O-line guy and a guy who wants to run the ball. It is going to be exciting. They have a really big team and we are excited to just play. They utilize their skills and they will play the type of scheme that will help them be the best. We are anticipating a lot of different looks, whether it is run-based, spread or if they are going to throw the ball and air it out a little bit like they did when (Alex) Kuresa was there. We have to anticipate all of it."
On using the whole playbook
"We aren’t going to hold anything back. We are going to try to do everything to win game one and worry about game two when it comes. We are just going to take things day by day. The playbook is everything that we worked fall camp for and we are just going to focus on winning game one."
On the overall health of the team
"Without going into specifics and to protect our players, we have some guys that are banged up and some guys that we hope will be ready for the game. There isn’t a large amount of guys we are worried about, but there may be a couple guys who compete based on their overall rehab this week."
On the strength of the team heading into week one
"We have been talking about how big we are getting up front, and I think that is always something that is easy for us to say because we are returning four offensive linemen. On the defensive side, there are some new guys and some guys that are unproven. We really started to become cohesive towards the end of the season last year, and we hope to do that from the get-go this year."
On importance of starting the season strong
"I think everybody has to deal with game one issues. I think we have done a great job as a coaching staff and with our team and our leaders about responding when things don’t go our way. Maybe it will all go right; there has to be that option too. I am leaning towards that."
On wide receiver progression through fall camp
"The wide receiver core has progressed really well through fall camp. I think you will see a lot of different sets, formations and personnel groups. You will see the guys on the depth chart on the field quite a bit."
Junior QB Tanner Mangum
Mood of the team
"Everyone’s excited. It’s finally that time. All that work we put in during the winter and summer is finally starting to come together. Everyone is pumped up and excited."
"They are athletic and well-coached. They mix it up a little bit with man and zone. So, we will just have to recognize that as quarterbacks. They have some athletic guys on the defensive front. It’s always hard to tell for first games because guys graduate, guys leave, you don’t know if the coach is going to change scheme or not, but you just have to do the best with the film that you have. Coach Detmer has done a good job of watching with us and just making sure we know what we are dealing with."
First game of the year as a starter
"I didn’t realize this is the first time I’m starting the opener. It feels like every other game — when it comes down to it, you’re just playing football. It is exciting to finally have a game coming up. I’ve been putting in a lot of time to make sure that I’m ready to go. You’ve just got to stay patient and make the most of each day."
"You can’t overlook anyone. You only get 13 times to play so you have to make the most of each one. There is no use in looking past one team to get to the next. Each game is an opportunity to play and win a game. It doesn’t matter who we are playing because each game is about us and executing our game and respecting every opponent."
Coaches second year difference in preparation
"I think they are treating it very similarly. Last year, they were very focused and dialed in, and I think it’s the same this year. I think as an offense, we are definitely further along than we were last year because we were still installing and figuring things out. We are more comfortable with the offense. All of fall camp has been good because it’s year two and we are more used to what we are doing. The coaches have done a good job making sure that we are ready."
Senior OL Tuni Kanuch
What does game week mean to you?
"Everything. We’ve worked and sacrificed all year so we can play. A lot of people are talking about our future games, but we’re excited for this game against Portland State. They’re going to be ready. They’re going to come in our stadium and try to smack us, so I’m excited."
How do you avoid getting surprised and beat by a smaller-name school?
"A game is a game. We’re playing with the mindset of 'every game could be your last.' For me, I’m a senior, so any game could be my last. Last year, we played SUU and they came to play. They were physical and tried to smack us in the mouth and Portland State will try to do the same."
How important is it to get off to a good start early on?
"It means everything. It’s super important because you want to carry that momentum. If you come out flat, it can be a struggle to pick things up."
How game-ready do you think the offensive line is?
"That’s a hard question, because we’re always trying to be better. We’ll see when game day comes, but we’re never satisfied with where we are. We’re always working and trying to perfect our craft."
How has fall camp helped prepare the line?
"It’s been one of the most physical camps I’ve been a part of. Both the offense and defense have been really physical in getting after each other. We’ve become more consistent in getting our assignment and sticking to our assignment while being physical. It can sometimes be hard to do both."
Junior DL Corbin Kaufusi
On game week
“There’s been so much preparation for this week, so it’s nice to have that feeling of not being in fall camp mode anymore, but in season mode — it’s a separate thing."
“It’s all about our mentality. The first game is all mental because everyone will make little mistakes here and there. Everyone will get hyped up and make little mental errors, but if we can keep those mental errors down, that will be huge for us.”
On upcoming games
“There is so much preparation going into this first game that we don’t have time to focus on anyone else. It all starts with the coaches. If I sit back and think about how we play LSU, Utah and all these other teams, I’m like, ‘OK, cool.’ But right now, we are so locked into this.”
On Portland State
“One thing that we see is their quarterback. He is small but very mobile, so we have to contain him.”
“We’ve looked at a lot of their formations. We’ll see some things we didn’t see last year, so we are preparing. They run a lot of downhill runs. They don’t try to stretch it out but instead go down the middle. We need to make sure the middle is taken care of."
On season preparation
“In past seasons, we were prepared but each season we come in more prepared. This season, I don’t have anything in the back of my mind so it’s complete focus."
“Physically, it’s been great too. There is a huge difference coming off of basketball shape and thinking you have to go back to it. This year, though, I know exactly what I need to do, so I need to get my body to it.”
“A lot of confidence has carried over, but at the same time there is this humility with it. We know it is never given to us, and we have to prove ourselves.”
On the defense
“A big thing is meshing the whole team together. A lot of times it is the D-line, linebackers and secondary all doing their own thing. It’s a whole different thing when everyone gets together. We play off each other more and get used to tendencies from the different positions.