PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – Having last played in 2012, BYU has waited ten years to take on the Fighting Irish again. And this Saturday night in Las Vegas, the wait comes to an end as the Cougars take on one of the most storied program in all of college football.
“BYU and Notre Dame, this is the Holy War,” joked BYU defensive back Kaleb Hayes. “It has a lot of emotion towards it. I know I’m very hyped up, the boys are very hyped up and I know the fans are too.
“It’s very historic,” said linebacker Payton Wilgar. “Notre Dame has been around forever, and they’ve been an elite program. I mean, this is why we all came to BYU is to play in games like this.”
“I’ve seen them be a top team and be really good throughout growing up,” added offensive lineman Clark Barrington. “So, I think we’re all super excited to go play this game.”
The Cougars are headed to Las Vegas with a record of 4-1, ranked 16th in the country. Notre Dame started the season ranked 5th in the nation, but after starting the season with losses to Ohio State and Marshall, the Irish fell out of the top-25, currently with a record of 2-2.
Yet, Notre Dame is a 3-point favorite in Saturday night’s game.
“I like the underdog mentality all the time, no matter what the situation is,” said BYU head coach Kalani Sitake. “We know we’re going up against a great team. Notre Dame hasn’t played their best football yet, but we haven’t played our best either. So, we’re trying to go to that position from good to great.”
The Cougars are 2-5 all-time against Notre Dame with victories in 1994 and 2004.
BYU’s defense in particular has not gotten off to great starts, something they can’t afford to keep doing. Against Utah State, the Cougars gave up 204 yards rushing.
“The last couple weeks, it’s been unacceptable as a defense,” said Wilgar. “It’s important for the leaders, and everyone really, to step up and make sure we get a fast start.”
“In the first half [against Utah State], we had over 50 snaps on defense,” Sitake said. “That’s the defense’s fault. Get off the stinking field.”
Even though it’s 5 1/2 hours from Provo to Las Vegas, and 27 1/2 from South Bend to Vegas, Notre Dame is the home team in this game.
“It’s technically a home game for us in Vegas,” said Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman. “But I’m sure there is going to be a lot of BYU fans there too.”
And for a game as big as this, BYU is bringing back their black jerseys with a brand new helmet.
“It’s good for us to bring back the black,” Hayes said. “I didn’t get to try out the black, so we kind of had to bring it back.”
“It’s always fun to have kind of a special uniform, especially for a game like this, playing Notre Dame in Las Vegas,” Wilgar said. “It’s a huge game and huge environment.”
BYU and Notre Dame will kick off at 5:30 p.m. MT at Allegient Stadium Saturday night.