BYU football: 4-1 Cougars’ next big task will be to get a Big 12 road win next week at TCU
Why BYU is hoping for a night game at TCU on Oct. 14 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas
An important announcement will come Monday morning that might just determine how well BYU’s football team plays against TCU on Oct. 14 at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas.
That would be the game’s kickoff time, believe it or not.
In short: BYU generally plays well in night games — defined as kicking off after 5 p.m. — and is just average, or worse, in day games. Don’t scoff, as coach Kalani Sitake sometimes does when reporters ask him about it.
“I am trying to fix the things I know we are better at right now. We are going to take advantage of the bye by getting better, and then try to heal up. We should get most of the guys back after we heal up and be ready to roll by the time we take the field against TCU in Texas.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake
The numbers show that it is a thing.
The Cougars improved to 19-1 in their last 20 night games after Friday’s 35-27 win over Cincinnati, according to Greg Wrubell of the BYU Sports Network. They are 16-1 in their last 17 night games at home, the only loss in that stretch being that 27-24 setback to East Carolina last season.
BYU’s record in day games under Sitake isn’t great, although the Cougars will always have that 24-21 win at then-No. 6 Wisconsin at sun-splashed Camp Randall Stadium in 2018, which still stands as one of the best wins of the Sitake era.
Memorable afternoon losses the past few years in which the Cougars did not play well include the 38-27 loss at Kansas on Sept. 23, the losses at Oregon and Liberty and at home to Arkansas last year, and the back-to-back losses to Boise State and Baylor in 2021 after a 5-0 start.
Of course, the Cougars (1-1, 4-1) have a bye this week, while TCU (1-1, 3-2) plays at Iowa State at 7 p.m. CDT on Saturday in Ames, Iowa. BYU is off to a solid start for the fourth straight season, having also gone 4-1 in 2022 and 5-0 in 2020 and 2021.
“Happy we won, but we can improve,” Sitake said after the Cougars kind of stole one from Cincinnati. “I will probably say that every week, that we can get better, play better. … We need to possess the ball and convert some first downs and get some drives going. And then defensively we gotta get off the field and get some stops. There are things that we can do to help ourselves.”
Added receiver Chase Roberts: “Being the first home game in the Big 12, we are going to remember this for a long time. I feel like going into a bye week with a Big 12 win is going to be huge for us the rest of the season. We are focused on TCU now and got the momentum going forward and going to take it to them.”
That the Cougars are 4-1 is quite remarkable, considering where they are in some of the major national statistical categories.
They are 56th in scoring offense (31.0 points per game) and 116th in total offense (318.6 yards per game). They are 51st in scoring defense (21.25 ppg.) and 66th in total defense (360.8 ypg.).
The Cougars aren’t exactly what we thought they were when the season began. The defense has improved and is probably better than most expected; the offense has underachieved a bit, particularly the running game; special teams have been average, aside from Ryan Rehkow’s spectacular punting and Marcus McKenzie’s work as a gunner on the punt coverage team.
“I am trying to fix the things I know we are better at right now,” Sitake said. “… We are going to take advantage of the bye by getting better, and then try to heal up. We should get most of the guys back after we heal up and be ready to roll by the time we take the field against TCU in Texas.”
Among those who could be back include safety Talan Alfrey, offensive lineman Weylin Lapuaho, receiver Kody Epps and running back Aidan Robbins. Leading tackler Ben Bywater (shoulder) was certainly missed Friday and his status moving forward is still a mystery, but Oregon transfer Harrison Taggart played as well as could be expected, making 10 tackles.
A bunch of other guys have nagging injuries that have kept them from being at full strength, including linebacker Max Tooley — who said Friday he welcomes the bye. Last year, the bye week didn’t come until Week 11, when the Cougars were 5-4 and coming off a huge 31-28 upset of Boise State.
“For me personally, I feel like we have been relentless in our effort, regardless (of the injuries),” Tooley said. “Whether things are going our way or not, we are going to give it all we got, and we are going to run to the ball. Having that mentality as a defense, there are little assignment things we can fix to be a more well-tuned defense, all on the same page.
“Going into the bye week, it is just a matter of getting our legs back, focusing and preparing hard for TCU.”
Cougars on the air
BYU (4-1) at TCU (*3-2)
Oct. 14, Kickoff time TBA
Amon G. Carter Stadium (Capacity: 50,000)
Fort Worth, Texas
Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM
* — TCU plays at Iowa State on Saturday; kickoff time and television plans for Oct. 14 game against BYU will be announced Monday.