How did BYU football fare in the polls after lackluster win over unheralded UTSA?
Undefeated blue-clad Cougars (4-0) say they will have to play better on Friday when they travel to Houston to take on the red-clad Cougars at TDECU Stadium on ESPN
PROVO — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake received not just one, but two, important gifts from his team on his 45th birthday Saturday at eerily quiet LaVell Edwards Stadium as the third-straight contest was held there without spectators in the stands.
Second, the Cougars committed just enough penalties and mental and physical mistakes and suddenly looked vulnerable after three dominating performances to ensure that Sitake and his staff will have their full attention this week as they approach their most difficult game of the young season.
BYU, which moved up one spot to No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll on Sunday and jumped from No. 15 to No. 13 in the Amway Coaches Poll, plays at 1-0 Houston on Friday at 7:30 p.m. MDT on ESPN.
“I mean, learning from a win is always the best way to do it. Those guys (UTSA) came out ready to play. We didn’t execute, and we put ourselves in some tough situations, whether it was penalties or whatever. … We gotta watch the film and go back and see what we can do better. It is all about improvement.” — BYU QB Zach Wilson
“Very happy about the win and very excited about learning from this and getting back on the field,” Sitake said. “We have less than a week to get ready for Houston, so (we are) excited about getting back to work and showing up again and making sure that we perform better than we did here and learning as much as we can and get better from this experience.”
The No. 13 ranking (coaches) is the highest BYU has been ranked under Sitake and the team’s best ranking since it was No. 7 (AP) and No. 9 (coaches) in 2009 before losing at home to Florida State in Week 5.
One AP voter admitted he “accidentally” left the Cougars off his ballot after having ranked them No. 12 last week.
I take the responsibility of voting in the AP college football poll seriously. I messed up this week, leaving off BYU after having them No. 12 a week ago. I meant to have them in that range this time, accidentally marked that I had them accounted for and didn’t. I’ll do better.— Ryan Aber (@ryaber) October 11, 2020
Some poll observers thought the Cougars would tumble a bit after the lackluster win over a team they were favored to destroy by five touchdowns, but a that didn’t prove to be the case — partly because a slew of other ranked teams lost.
And while the human polls didn’t punish BYU (4-0) for winning by just a touchdown, the computer-based ratings systems did. BYU dropped from No. 16 to No. 21 in theESPN College Football Power Index.
The Cougars did move up to No. 10 in the Sagarin Ratings, although their strength of schedule dropped to 63rd.
After throwing for 292 yards and two touchdowns and rushing for another score, BYU quarterback Zach Wilson cautioned fans to take any win they can get. That’s what the players do, he said.
“I mean, learning from a win is always the best way to do it,” Wilson said. “Those guys (UTSA) came out ready to play. We didn’t execute, and we put ourselves in some tough situations, whether it was penalties or whatever. … We gotta watch the film and go back and see what we can do better. It is all about improvement.”
Wilson went over 1,000 passing yards for the season on his second attempt Saturday, becoming the first BYU QB to reach that plateau in 73 attempts. He also surpassed 5,000 career passing yards and is 15th on the school’s all-time list in that category.
The Cougars were “held” to 470 yards, a season-low, but they still are No. 5 in the country in total offense, averaging 556.8 yards per game.
“Really excited about what our offense can do,” said linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi. “Our offense just seems different this year. We’ve got playmakers all over the field.”
As for BYU’s defense, the Cougars were thriving until UTSA inserted LSU transfer Lowell Narcisse into the game. He threw for 229 yards and two TDs, all in the second half, and the Roadrunners put up 359 yards, the most allowed by BYU this season.
“It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done, got the win, and that’s the most important thing,” Kaufusi said.
Houston finally was able to play a game after five postponements/cancellations, and the Cougars did not disappoint after some early turnover problems. They rolled past Tulane 49-31 on Thursday at TDECU Stadium in Houston and received votes in both polls on Sunday.
Houston is coached by Dana Holgorsen, who was West Virginia’s coach in 2016 when the Mountaineers held off BYU 35-32 at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. The red Cougars are led by senior quarterback Clayton Tune, who was 20-for-33 for 319 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Tulane.
Senior Marquez Stevenson is one of the top receivers in the country and had five catches for 118 yards. He also returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against the Green Wave.
Tulane was just 4 of 16 on third down and mustered only 211 yards against UH’s defense.
UTSA “did some things to make us uncomfortable, did some things to make things really difficult for us on offense and defense,” Sitake said. “It wasn’t like we couldn’t click for (an unknown) reason. They did some things we haven’t seen other teams do, and we need to have an answer because I think Houston will have a very similar game plan.”