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Injury riddled Cougars need a bye after four tough games; Instead they host 1-3 Utah State on short week

Also, depth chart could be shaken up this week, as Miles Davis emerged as a possible RB1 and Justen Smith got field goal kicking duties in 38-24 win over Wyoming

SHARE Injury riddled Cougars need a bye after four tough games; Instead they host 1-3 Utah State on short week
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) pats teammate running back Miles Davis (19) on the head as BYU and Wyoming play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. BYU won 38-24.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) pats teammate running back Miles Davis (19) on the head as BYU and Wyoming play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022. BYU won 38-24.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

The release of BYU’s depth chart on Monday afternoon for Thursday’s 6 p.m. MDT home game against Utah State should be more interesting than usual, for various reasons.

For starters, it feels like half the starters have been injured, or suffered an injury during Saturday’s 38-24 win over Wyoming, so there’s going to be some shuffling due to that, especially if it is determined an injury is serious, as some appeared to be Saturday night.

Then there is the situation at running back and kicker.

Has Miles Davis supplanted Chris Brooks as RB1 after rushing 13 times for 131 yards against the Pokes? Lopini Katoa got the start, and had five carries for 17 yards. Brooks didn’t enter the game until midway through the first quarter, and finished with just two carries for 10 yards and a touchdown.

“The plan was to see who could get the hot hand. (Coaches) thought the offense felt good with Miles (Davis) running the ball. We will do it by committee right now and see who will (give) us the best chance to get this running game going. We needed something. The last two weeks weren’t good enough.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake

Head coach Kalani Sitake didn’t exactly give Brooks a vote of confidence when he was asked after the game why the Cal transfer who looked spectacular in the opener against South Florida but has done very little since didn’t get more carries.

“The plan was to see who could get the hot hand,” Sitake said. “(Coaches) and the offense felt good with Miles running the ball. We will do it by committee right now and see who will (give) us the best chance to get this running game going. We needed something. The last two weeks weren’t good enough.”

Then Sitake dropped a bit of a bomb, hinting that Brooks wasn’t running plays correctly.

“You can only blame the (offensive line) for so long,” he said.

Usually, backs are benched for fumbling too much, or not picking up blitzes well. That hasn’t been the case for the Cougars this year, as Jaren Hall has only been sacked a couple times and BYU has committed just one turnover in four games — the interception Hall threw in the end zone against the Bulls.

“The challenge for all of those (running backs) is to step up and make plays and find a way to protect the football, (have good) ball security, and find ways to make runs, find ways to puncture and gain yards,” Sitake said.

Thanks to Davis’ 70-yard breakaway run in the fourth quarter, the Cougars averaged 6.3 yards per carry, much better than the 2.5 they had against Baylor and Oregon the last two games.

On one play, Katoa lined up to take a shotgun snap, with Hall as his running back. It would have been interesting to see what offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick had in mind there, but the Cougars had to take a timeout to keep the play clock from expiring.

“Miles did some really good things,” Sitake said. “Pini did some good things. And even Chris was in there and made some plays. But towards the end we are going to go with the hot hand.”

And that was Davis.

“When our offensive line blocks like how they were blocking and our coaches trust us, it just makes the night awesome,” Davis said.

The redshirt freshman from Las Vegas also got Hall’s stamp of approval.

“It was just a matter of time until Miles got a shot, and tonight was it,” Hall said. “He was prepared and did a heck of a job, as everyone saw. I am really proud of him. I’ve been watching him ball out since his freshman year at receiver (in 2020) and then moving to running back.”

With the game winding down, BYU faced a fourth-and-goal at the Wyoming 8-yard line. Starting kicker Jake Oldroyd had made five straight PATs, but had earlier booted a kickoff out of bounds to give the Pokes the ball at the 50 and give them a short field for their second touchdown.

So Sitake and special teams coach Ed Lamb sent third-year redshirt freshman Justen Smith out for the 25-yard field goal. He drilled it, the fourth of his career, on five attempts.

“Yeah, we told Jake that we were going to work both kickers (after Oldroyd missed his last three field goal attempts),” Sitake said. “… I think it was a good time in that moment for Justen to go in and make a kick. We’ve been fortunate to have both kickers have experience, so yeah, the competition is always still going for the entire team. So I think we may have to work with two kickers. I don’t know (yet).”

The same could be said on star receiver Puka Nacua’s injury status, Sitake added, after Nacua went down with some sort of lower leg injury after a 5-yard reception early in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t know entirely. I am not a trainer or a doctor, but it didn’t look as much of a knee issue as (something) else.”

Asked if was a “serious” injury, Sitake repeated that Nacua was a game-time decision and was determined to be good to go after missing the last two games with a high ankle sprain. 

“I don’t know anything about Puka until we figure it out,” he said. “… Find the doctors’ numbers. Go ask them. I don’t know until they assess it. I am always hopeful, right?”

Sitake later told the BYU Sports Radio Network that Nacua’s injury is not believed to be season-ending.

Defensive linemen Gabe Summers and Earl Tuioti-Mariner were held out, as was linebacker Max Tooley. Freshman defensive tackle Josh Larsen played some, then left with an injury. Linebacker Payton Wilgar got hurt, left the field on his own power, then returned.

Sitake said they plan on “some of them” playing this week, but didn’t specify who.

Starting free safety Malik Moore sustained a hand injury and was to have it diagnosed Sunday for possible surgery, according to the Instagram page of long snapper Austin Riggs.

Receiver Chase Roberts played briefly in the first half, then watched the second half in street clothes.

Offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia left the game with a right ankle injury but X-rays came back negative, according to the GoodStory Podcast.

Cougars on the air

Utah State (1-3) at No. 19 BYU (3-1)

Thursday, 6 p.m. MDT

LaVell Edwards Stadium

Provo, Utah

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM