PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – There was a sea of blue in an ocean of orange in Knoxville on Saturday to watch BYU’s stunning comeback win over Tennessee, and the players and coaches noticed.
“Yeah, they were loud,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “You could hear them throughout the game, cheering and making a lot of noise. So, it was a cool place to be. It was as nice environment and a great experience for our players, but I think the fans had a great time too.”
The BYU fans were so well-behaved and well-received, a Knoxville police captain posted a message on Facebook praising the thousands of Cougar faithful that made the trip to Neyland Stadium, saying he must have given a 100 high-fives, he heard thank you for your service dozens of times, and he is now a BYU fan.
Not since a 35-24 victory over #20 Boise State back in 2015 has BYU beaten a ranked team at home. So a chance to knock off a school as prestigious as #24 USC at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday afternoon presents a great opportunity.
“Historic, that’s what I can think of,” said offensive lineman Brady Christensen about the Trojans. “I remember watching them and being like, USC is playing! Reggie Bush, man! These guys are the best of college football. So, I’m personally super excited to play these guys.”
“I think what they’re doing is really effective” said head coach Kalani Sitake. “There’s a reason why they’re ranked and why there is a lot of excitement going on with them. So, we get them here at home and we’re looking forward to matching up with them.”
USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis replaced the injured J.T. Daniels and had a stellar collegiate debut against Stanford, throwing for 377 yards and three touchdowns.
But the Cougars know if they can put pressure on Slovis, they can reign him in.
“Our mindset needs to be get to the QB as fast as we can,” said defensive tackle Khyiris Tonga. “We need to pressure their freshman quarterback. That has to be a key for our defensive line. We need to crush the pocket.”
Speaking of crushing it, wide receiver Micah Simon had a career day against Tennessee. Coming into the game against the Vols, Simon had never caught more than four passes for 66 yards. But on Saturday, Simon hauled in seven passes for 127 yards, including a 64-yard catch at the end of regulation to set up the game-tying field goal.
Simon could be emerging as Zach Wilson’s go-to receiver when things get tough.
“It’s just my job to go out there and make plays when my number is called,:” Simon said. “I would have felt the same way if I would have had one catch or seven. That’s just what I wanted to accomplish this season is to be consistent reliable player for Zach. Being here for five years, there’s been a lot of ups and down with this program, with myself. So you see some things finally coming together.”
BYU and USC will kick off at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, and you can watch the game live on ABC4.