Facebook Twitter

Time to face the music, BYU is a night team

As the Cougars look to their right their ship tonight vs. Texas Tech, as least they’ll do so under the stars.

SHARE Time to face the music, BYU is a night team
BYU players run onto the field to play the Cincinnati Bearcats at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

BYU players run onto the field to play the Cincinnati Bearcats at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

Cougars hunt best at night and this BYU football team is no different.

There is a reason why fans pay attention to kickoff times. The Cougars play better after the sun goes down. For many, the first thought after learning tonight’s BYU-Texas Tech game would kick off at 5 p.m. MDT was, “Great! It should be dark by halftime.”

BYU/Texas Tech TV

Cougars on the air

Texas Tech (2-2, 3-4)
at BYU (1-2, 4-2)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MDT
LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

When you are 4-2 and heading into six more weeks of “underdog” football in the Big 12, the Cougars must cling to every advantage possible and embrace what is working, logical or not, and playing under the lights is working.

BYU is 19-1 in their last 20 night games and 16-1 in their last 17 night games at home.

This isn’t the time to debate game prep or over analyze why “daytime” results are so different. That can come next week at Texas. This is about tonight. BYU faces a major challenge, and they will need to maximize the energy created by a dark sky and a loud crowd to meet it. It’s nothing new. Musicians have been singing songs about the music of the night since the sun came up.

Here are some legendary titles that set the tone for evening.

“In the Air Tonight” (Phil Collins)
“I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord.”

There is a sense of urgency in the air tonight after last week’s performance at TCU. It is a mixture of confidence and anxiety. With a win, the Cougars will retain a realistic shot at qualifying for a bowl game in their first year of Power Five football. The Red Raiders have never played in Provo. They have never felt the substance-free wrath of the ROC (student section) and frankly, BYU just flat out plays better in front of their 63,000 fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“Night Moves” (Bob Seger)
“I woke last night to the sound of thunder
How far off I sat and wondered
Started hummin’ a song from 1962
Ain’t it funny how the night moves?”

When the night moves tonight, BYU must move with it. There will be highs and lows, peaks and valleys, productive drives, and stall outs — even a turnover or two. Momentum in football is king. Quarterback Kedon Slovis needs simple pass plays out of the gate to get into a groove. As he moves, so go the Cougars.

“Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” (Elton John)
Don’t give us none of your aggravation
We had it with your discipline
Saturday night’s alright for fighting
Get a little action in.”

These Big 12 games are like 12-round title fights full of punching and counter punching. Baylor showed that when the Bears rallied from a 35-7 deficit at UCF to win 36-35. Houston kept swinging against West Virginia and landed a knockout punch in the form of a “Hail Mary” pass to win 41-39. Oklahoma State never relented against No. 23 Kansas and took down the Jayhawks 39-32. No. 12 Oklahoma refused to quit against No. 3 Texas and beat the Longhorns on a last-second touchdown pass 34-30. The Cougars must bring the same kind of relentless determination tonight for four quarters against Texas Tech.

“Night Fever” (Bee Gees)
“Listen to the ground
There is movement all around
There is something going down
And I can feel it.”

Something happens in Provo when the crowd gets into the head of the opposing quarterback. It’s almost as if the player contracts a night fever. Snap counts go unheard, play clocks expire, routine plays become complicated, open receivers go undetected and mistakes abound. Cougars fans watched the likes of Utah, Arizona State, Virginia and Baylor suffer under such circumstances in recent seasons. BYU must create similar conditions tonight.

“All Night Long” (Lionel Richie)
“Well my friends, the time has come.
To raise the roof and have some fun
Throw away the work to be done
Let the music play on (play on, play on).”

BYU must relax and play free, while keeping a firm grip on the football all night long. In the Cougars’ pair of Big 12 road defeats, they have allowed 21 points directly off turnovers — including defensive touchdowns in the opening drives of both games. Giving out free ice cream to the visiting fans is sweet and permissible, but giving out free points to the Red Raiders is not.

“Heartache Tonight” (Eagles)
“Somebody is going to hurt someone
before the night is through.
Somebody is gonna come undone
there is nothing we can do.”

The Cougars (4-2, 1-2) were picked to finish 11th in the Big 12 preseason media poll. Texas Tech (3-4, 2-2) was picked fourth and considered by many as a potential contender for the crown. Each team badly needs to win this one. For certain, heartache awaits the loser.

“Oh, What a Night” (Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons)
“Oh what a night
Late December back in sixty three
What a very special time for me
As I remember, what a night.”

The opposite of heartache is joy and oh, what a night this could be. The opportunity for BYU to earn its fifth win in seven games would not only restore the Cougars’ “ahead of schedule” progress in the Big 12, but it would also send them to Texas next week with a pocket full of “house money.” BYU has had an uncanny way of contending the Longhorns when they have nothing to lose.

“Music of the Night” (“Phantom of the Opera”)
Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses …”

Credit Andrew Lloyd Webber for capturing the essence of night games in Provo in his musical “Phantom of the Opera.” Indeed, something special seems to happen when BYU plays at night. As for day-game struggles, the Cougars can address that issue tomorrow — after the sun comes up.