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BYU looking to its glorious past to pull off a ‘throwback’ upset of No. 22 Washington at LaVell Edwards Stadium

Having stunned Tennessee and USC, the Cougars will try to make it three in a row Saturday against a team that pounded them 35-7 last year in Seattle.

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake applauds a field goal in Provo on Sept 14, 2019. BYU won 30-27 in overtime.
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake applauds a field goal in Provo on Sept 14, 2019. BYU won 30-27 in overtime.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

PROVO — BYU will conduct what it is calling a “throwback game” at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday to celebrate the 150th anniversary of college football, complete with retro uniforms and historic helmet logo designs from years ago.

Even the field will look different, with the end zones painted in a diamond-shaped pattern used in the 1960s and the middle of the field featuring an old helmet style the Cougars used to wear. All-time greats such as Ty Detmer, Jason Buck, Derwin Gray and Mo Elewonibi will attend and carry out the alumni flags before kickoff.

Whether the 2019 Cougars can continue to rekindle their winning ways and bring back their magical play of days gone by when Edwards himself roamed the sidelines remains to be seen. Having upset former national powerhouses Tennessee and USC in overtime in successive weeks, BYU (2-1) tests one of the current kingpins of college football, No. 22 Washington, at 1:30 p.m. MDT in a game most of the nation will see on ABC.

“It’s another great opportunity to show who we are,” said sophomore receiver Gunner Romney.

Will lightning strike a third time for coach Kalani Sitake’s team that says it thrives on being called an underdog? A win, in overtime or not, would surpass anything the Cougars have done the past two weeks, because Washington has more talent — and a much better quarterback — than what the Vols and Trojans put on the field, BYU players and coaches have said all week.

A spot in the Associated Press Top 25 rankings is likely at stake as well for the Cougars, a prospect that seemed unimaginable when they were throttled 30-12 by Utah in their season opener more than three weeks ago.

“Washington is a great, great team, man,” Sitake said Monday. “We are just really excited for this chance.”

The Cougars have firsthand knowledge of UW’s greatness, because they were thumped by the Pac-12 champs 35-7 last year in Seattle. Sure, the Huskies lost nine defensive starters, a good share of them to the NFL, but the school that refers to itself as DBU has simply reloaded, according to BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes.

“A lot of their guys that are playing played a lot last year anyway,” Grimes said. “They have recruited really well and they develop their players really well within their system. It will be a challenge, for sure.”

Offensively, the Huskies lost the two players who terrorized the Cougars the most last year — quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. But RB Salvon Ahmed returns, after having rushed for 86 yards and two scores at Husky Stadium, and coach Chris Petersen has added quarterback Jacob Eason, a transfer from Georgia, to an already skilled offense.

“He’s got an amazing arm,” BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said of Eason, who stands 6-foot-6 and found his groove last week in UW’s 52-20 rout of Hawaii. “He’s got the ability to put balls in tight windows. He’s a really talented player.”

BYU has upgraded its offense as well. Sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson hadn’t replaced Tanner Mangum as the starter last September, but is clearly the leader now and is looking forward to facing his fourth-straight Power Five defense.

“Yeah, very talented team, and always really well-coached,” Wilson said. “Chris Petersen is a great coach and they always have their team dialed up in all three phases. It will be a test for us to come out and see how we perform. I am just excited.”

Petersen noticed all the great plays Wilson made in last week’s 30-27 overtime win over the Trojans, noting in his weekly news conference that Wilson adds a versatile dimension to BYU’s offense.

“I think the new quarterback makes them better,” he said. “He’s a really good player. He’s super athletic. He gets the ball out quickly. He’s got some moxie to him.”

The Cougars would probably like to throw it back to 2010, when Washington native Jake Heaps and Utah State transfer Riley Nelson shared quarterbacking duties and handed the Steve Sarkisian-coached Huskies a 23-17 setback. BYU is 3-1 against Washington in Provo.

Sitake has the Cougars believing in their home-field dominance again, regardless of what’s painted on the field. BYU has won three straight games against Power Five opponents before, but never in successive weeks. That’s another goal the program is trying to attain, and their confidence is soaring right now, they say.

“I think it can be attributed to the kids and the culture,” Tuiaki said. “We have a great head coach who has been pushing the culture of belief, culture of love, and the kids are really rallying behind it. Obviously, when you end up winning games, you feel like it is working. But Kalani has done a good job of sticking to what he feels is important — win, lose or draw.”

Cougars on the air

No. 22 Washington (2-1) at BYU (2-1)

LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. (MDT)

TV: ABC or ESPN2

Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM