I think we owe them one. – BYU safety Dallin Leavitt
PROVO — While BYU leaped four spots to No. 21 in the Associated Press rankings Sunday after defeating Houston last Thursday, its next opponent, Virginia, received votes in the AP poll for the first time in a few years.
The Cavaliers (2-1), who posted a 2-10 record last season, knocked off then-No. 21 Louisville, 23-21, at home last Saturday, snapping an 11-game Atlantic Coast Conference losing streak.
The Cougars (3-0) will be the third nationally ranked opponent Virginia has faced this season when the two teams meet Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPN) at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
One of Virginia’s two victories last year came at the expense of BYU in a 19-16 season-opening decision on a soggy day in Charlottesville. That was the Cavaliers' last win over an FBS foe before they defeated Louisville.
For the Cougars, it was a disappointing defeat, as a late turnover cost them.
“I think we owe them one,” BYU safety Dallin Leavitt said after Thursday’s win.
“I’m very excited about that football game,” said quarterback Taysom Hill. “I don’t want to say revenge, but I’m very excited to play Virginia again. I’ve watched their tape and I’ve watched some of their games on TV. They’re a good defense, a good football team. So it will be a good challenge for us.”
Last year against the Cavaliers, Hill completed just 13 of 40 passes for 175 yards and rushed 11 times for 57 yards in his first start as a sophomore.
How is Hill different now?
“I would say just maturity overall, and I know that’s a broad answer,” he said. “In our passing and running schemes last year, sometimes I got in trouble trying to do too much. I know our offensive system very well and I know it works and I trust it. If I don’t have guys open, I don’t try to force things. I find my check downs and my completions. In my run game, I make good decisions.”
Having played Thursday night, BYU will have nine days to prepare for Virginia. After opening the season with two long road trips, then a short week prior to the home opener, the Cougars needed some rest.
Coach Bronco Mendenhall gave his players the weekend off to recover.
“We’re going to enjoy this weekend and enjoy the win,” safety Craig Bills said Thursday night. “Then we’ll hit the film hard. We have a great coaching staff and they’re really on top of things. We have a dedicated team. We’re going to get after it on Monday when we come back.”
Linebacker Bronson Kaufusi and running back Algernon Brown were sidelined last week due to ankle injuries. The status of both players will be updated Monday.
“We need to get some people back that are injured and get rolling,” said wide receiver Jordan Leslie. “It’s going to be really good for us to have nine days to prepare for our opponent.”
Virginia recovered a fumbled punt late in Saturday’s game, setting up Ian Frye’s game-winning 42-yard field goal.
Against Houston, BYU turned over the ball three times. The Cougars know they need to cut down both turnovers and penalties Saturday.
“We’ve got a long week for Virginia,” said Leslie. “We’ve got to work on ball security and blocking the right way. Little penalties we’ve had, we need to work on those.”
“We just made too many mistakes,” running back Jamaal Williams said of the Houston game. “We were pretty much giving them the plays to try to come back. If we play to our potential and not worry about the opponent and just play our game and not worry about the score ... just play, score, come off the field, let defense get a three-and-out and offense back on and score, if we just do that, we’ll be fine. I feel like next game we’ll do better.”