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Cougars to build on historic streak

You’d have to go back 69 years to find BYU football starting back-to-back seasons with 3-0 win streaks. On Saturday the Cougars look to build on that when they host South Florida as Kalani Sitake’s team climbed to No. 15 in The Associated Press poll with the win over then No. 19 Arizona State.

The 1951 and 1952 teams started 3-0 back in the era when BYU played in the Skyline Conference.

Here’s a look at our coverage of the dramatic win over Arizona State:

  • Shouldn’t BYU be leading the Pac 12 South after ASU win? (Dick Harmon)
  • BYU grinds out dramatic win over 19th-ranked ASU (Jay Drew)
  • BYU honors 1996 football team during ASU game (Jay Drew)
  • Three takeaways from Cougar win over ASU (Brandon Judd)
  • Captain Keenan Pili lost for the season (Ryan McDonald)
  • BYU moves up in the polls (Brandon Judd)

Cougar Insider predictions

Question of the week: Will BYU’s defense recover from the loss of leading tackler Keenan Pili?

Jay Drew: When BYU quarterback Jaren Hall got the wind knocked out of him Saturday against Arizona State, I started thinking about which players on offense and defense the Cougars could least afford to lose this season. Of course, linebacker Keenan Pili had limped off the field before that.

At the time, I was thinking BYU’s most valuable player on offense was running back Tyler Allgeier and its most valuable player on defense was Pili.

So I am going to say that the loss of Pili will be difficult to overcome for the Cougars. He was arguably their best defensive player. He was their leading tackler, by far.

The Cougars said all summer that linebacker was the strength of the defense, with Pili, Max Tooley and Payton Wilgar. They were right.

But now that Pili is out, they are looking a bit inexperienced at the Mike LB spot. Ben Bywater has played quite a bit, so he’s the obvious replacement. But as Kalani Sitake said Monday, Wilgar and Tooley might have to be moved to that all-important spot in the middle of the BYU defense.

In short, Pili’s injury hurts the Cougars. A lot.

Prediction: South Florida won’t be a pushover, even if the Cougars are 23-point favorites. BYU 31, USF 27.

Dick Harmon: Keenan Pili’s loss is huge. BYU will miss his size, speed and experience. He was able to shift over and play defensive end at times and he was an impact player in the blitzes the Cougars were using in the first three games. So, it will be tough. But in this game it is always next man up when these tragedies happen.

The answer is switching talent around. Look for Payton Wilgar to see some time at middle linebacker and the is door open for Ben Bywater to start. Bywater had 10 tackles against Arizona playing for the injured Max Tooley and now Tooley, who had that huge interception in the win over ASU, is healthy. Tooley had 10 tackles last week. This is a great opportunity for Zach Wilson’s brother Josh to step up and get experience, Drew Jensen has already been a factor and I like what Pepe Tanuvasa brings.

If there is a silver lining in a bad situation it is that BYU is very deep at linebacker. They may not be the factor Pili has been, but they have potential to be very good. The most important factors in a linebacker are reaction time, feel for the game, and football I.Q. Then comes size and speed. Remember undersized Shay Muirbrook in 1996 — he was one of the best defensive football players the Cougars ever put on the field. What BYU needs is another talent to step up and prove themselves and this is a good week and opponent to go through those growing pains when BYU hosts South Florida.

Prediction: BYU 34, South Florida 17.

Cougar tales

Starting at 3-0, beating their rival, and getting invited to the Big 12 in the first three weeks of September brought the Cougars momentum not seen in Provo for a very long time. Here are some of the trends and stories generated because of this success:

From the archives

An expensive T-shirt and mea culpas
How big of boon will Big 12 membership be for BYU recruiting?

From the Twitterverse

Extra points

What to make of Zach Wilson’s interceptions? (Brandon Judd)

BYU fortifying CFP campaign with 3-0 start (Yahoo Sports)


Comments from Deseret News readers

The leadership on this team seems to be having a huge impact. Jaren Hall seems to be a mature leader and the other captains seem to have instilled an attitude of humility and hard work, not taking anything for granted. This mindset will be essential as they face the next three games against what some might consider lesser competition. In reality, any of the next 3 teams could knock off BYU if the Cougs don’t bring their A-game. Gotta stay locked in.

 — Cheezit

Jaren is really skilled in terms of leadership, just natural. He was going around with me my first night of his mission and there wasn’t a second of deer in the headlights look or reaction from him, he was mature and well spoken and just a leader from the start.

I can’t say enough good things about him as an individual. 

As a team, for whatever reason they don’t come out calm and collected.

Arizona started out with a punt, punt, punt, then touchdown, touchdown, touchdown. 

Utah was punt punt fg then touchdown, punt touchdown. 

ASU was a touchdown (off a turnover), punt, punt, punt, touchdown, touchdown and int (should have been that first td, both are flukes).

So basically we’re pretty consistent punting 3 times before we figure things out then building up a lead and holding on for the win. 

If you look at how fast BYU scores points and how efficient the team is when it’s in flow — common sense would state that the top goal needs to be finding that flow sooner and then staying in it longer. 

— Josh from London

Up Next

Sept. 22-24 | TBA | Men’s tennis | vs. ITA Mountain Region | @Provo

Sept. 23 | 7 p.m. | Women’s volleyball | vs. Pacific | @Provo

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Sept. 24 | 8 a.m. | Men’s golf | William Tucker Invitational | @Albuquerque, New Mexico

Sept. 24 | TBA | Cross-country | Roy Griak Invitational | @St. Paul, Minnesota

Sept. 24 | TBA | Swimming | Relay meet | @Salt Lake City

Sept. 25 | 8:15 p.m. | Football | vs. South Florida | @Provo

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