SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – Two games into their first Big 12 Conference season, and the BYU Cougars have definitely been tested against Kansas and Cincinnati.
“We knew going into this season that it was going to be a battle every week,” head coach Kalani Sitake said. “Especially when we get into conference, and that has kind of been proven.”
Headed into their bye week, BYU is 4-1 after its first Big 12 victory over Cincinnati on Friday, but both conference games against the Bearcats and Kansas have been very competitive.
“It’s come down the wire, so that’s just going to have to be part of our mentality,” Sitake said. “You’ve got to be ready for a battle every week.”
“Obviously we need to work on being a little more consistent, and playing more of a complete game,” said offensive lineman Connor Pay. “But it’s hard to win in college football. Our first year in the Big 12, starting the season 4-1, I think that’s something that we can be proud of.”
Even though BYU has a bye, that doesn’t mean they won’t be working to improve, especially on defense, which gave up 498 yards to the Bearcats. The Cougars will be better rested than their opponent on October 14, TCU. The Horned Frogs play at Iowa State this Saturday.
“We’re able to just recover, and be fresh for that following week,” said BYU linebacker AJ Vongphachanh. “Especially when a team [TCU] is playing that week, so I think it’s a huge advatnage.
“It’s a loaded week for work for us,” Sitake said. “The only difference is we’re not playing in a game. But we will have physical practices.”
“The bye week is really timely this year,” Pay said. “Anywhere in that middle section of the season is nice, just because now that we’re five games in, just normal bumps and bruises, you get a chance to heal from some of those.”
Five weeks in, one of the biggest surprises on the team is freshman running back LJ Martin, who has gained 317 total yards, and scored five touchdowns in five games.
“Obviously, LJ is playing really well right now,” Pay said. “He’s running hard, and has been a pleasant surprise for sure. Being a freshman, we didn’t know much about him. We didn’t see him as much during training camp, and he’s done a great job for us.”
A couple of former BYU stars made headlines this week with Puka Nacua setting NFL rookie records with the Los Angeles Rams, and Zach Wilson having a very solid game for the New York Jets.
“It’s awesome,” Pay said. “Outside of football players, those guys are just my friends. So, to see them be successful is a special thing.”
“It’s great for us, but that’s just part of my job,” Sitake said. “You see the guys that are out there doing their thing at the next level, I’m hoping to add to it. That’s my job.”
BYU’s next job will be to play TCU in Fort Worth on October 14th at 1:30 p.m. MT.