BYU football kicks off Friday at UConn

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The college football season is upon us, and with all the talk of BYU’s future in or out of a FBS Division I conference, one goal remains constant: the Cougars must win.

Redemption is an interesting concept. After losing to Virginia to begin last year, the Cougars have a chance to kick the season off right in their first-ever meeting with UConn, on the road in East Hartford Friday night. A win on the national stage could rally the troops to a year better than last, but a loss could set the program back.

Remington Peck celebrates his recovery of a Boise State fumble in a game last season. (Universe Photo)
Remington Peck celebrates his recovery of a Boise State fumble in a game last season. (Universe Photo)

Junior quarterback Taysom Hill became the first BYU player to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 2,000 yards in a season. He was an obvious selection as a team captain, but junior defensive lineman Remington Peck and senior running back Paul Lesike, less well-known players, are showing vast improvement and confidence.

“Paul (Lasike) has made a really rapid ascent in our program from not knowing the rules to being named a captain,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said at a press conference Monday. “Remington (Peck) is a product of a program, has tried really hard. Craig (Bills) and Taysom (Hill) I don’t think surprised anyone. We also have special teams captains in place as well as leadership council members.”

With captains selected and the opener Friday, here are a few notes on the first of three matchups between the AAC and BYU this year:

BYU vs. UConn (East Hartford, Connecticut)

UConn hired new head coach Bob Diaco during the offseason. His coaching experience includes stints at Western Illinois, Eastern Michigan, Virginia, Central Michigan, Cincinnati and Notre Dame. He played college football for the University of Iowa.

The Huskies are led by redshirt sophomore Casey Cochran, who played in eight games last year and started the final four. The Monroe, Connecticut, native passed for 1,293 yards and 11 touchdowns, finishing the season with a 3-1 record. Cochran holds the Huskies’ single-game record for passing yards, throwing for 461 against Memphis on Dec. 7, 2014.

BYU is 16-2 all time against the AAC, its most recent game a 47-46 win at Houston last season. It’s safe to say the Cougars have handled the AAC successfully over the years.

The Cougars are highlighted by Hill, who enters his junior year on the Maxwell, Davey O’Brien, Walter Camp and Heisman Award watch lists. He’s a true dual threat, totaling 3,363 passing yards and 1,680 rushing yards over his first two years. While his 54.6 percent completion percentage is not world class, he continues to get better. His signature moment came against Texas last year, passing for 129 yards and rushing for 259 yards and three touchdowns.

BYU’s star junior running back, Jamaal Williams, will be unavailable for Friday’s game due to an Honor Code violation and a one-game suspension. Williams, who rushed for 1,233 yards in 2013, looks to break the all-time BYU rushing record this year, but the suspension will make it tough.

Lingering in the the minds of both BYU players and fans is the loss to Virginia in last year’s opener. Friday’s game is a welcome opportunity to help everyone forget.

“I think it is (a chance to make a statement),” Peck said on Monday. “The first game kind of shows what you are going to do for the year. The past few years we haven’t gone out and done that, especially last year. We felt like we lost one we should not have lost. We’re excited to change that around this year.”

Go get ’em, Cougars.

Kickoff is at 7:02 p.m. (EDT) on ESPN and the radio on the Cougar IMG Sports Network with Greg Wrubell. Radio coverage begins at 5 p.m. (EDT).

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