BYU visits Utah State Friday having won 12 of its last 13 games against the Aggies. The Cougars spent the entire month of September playing at Lavell Edwards Stadium and are looking forward to their first road test since losing at Virginia in week one.
“(I’m) looking forward to a great in-state match-up this week,” said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. “I think if you look at what the match-up looks like, it’s gonna be an exciting game.”
BYU and Utah State have met 81 times, dating back to 1922. Utah State has had its fair share of struggles against BYU in recent years, losing the last two games against the Cougars by a combined six points. Many see this rivalry to be similar to BYU’s rivalry with the University of Utah, which beat the Cougars in Provo on Sept. 21. Mendenhall believes this game isn’t quite the same.
“I’m not saying it’s better or worse,” Mendenhall said. “It’s just different, and I think it should be. Different teams, a little bit more distance, but still I think (it’s) a great game, and it has been the past number of years — it has gone right down to the end.”
BYU looks forward to having two of its main playmakers back on offense this week. Receiver Cody Hoffman (one-game suspension) and running back Jamaal Williams (injury) have been cleared to play after missing last week’s game. Having both players back should provide a big boost to the Cougar offense, especially Williams, who was the starting running back before being carted off the field on a stretcher against Utah.
“(Williams) is doing very well. He practiced today and looked really good through everything; didn’t have any repeat symptoms or any increase in problems,” said BYU head trainer Jeff Hurst. “He should be good to go on Friday.”
The player perhaps most excited for Hoffman and Williams’ return to the lineup is quarterback Taysom Hill. Hill has struggled this year with pass efficiency and knows having both players back will help him improve.
“Jamaal’s a guy that a defense has to prepare for; and the same thing for Cody,” Hill said. “Even if we’re not getting the ball regularly, the defense is going to have to account for them; that’s really big.”
One glaring issue the Cougars look to improve upon against Utah State is ball security. BYU players and coaches agree if they’re going to beat the Aggies in Logan, they can’t turn the ball over like they did in last week’s win. BYU managed to defeat Middle Tennessee State despite committing five turnovers.
“It looks kind of funny to have two hands on the ball, but that’s necessary,” said BYU running back Michael Alisa, who fumbled inside the Middle Tennessee five-yard line last week. “You cannot be having turnovers — especially in a game like this.”