After beating No. 6 Wisconsin on Sept. 15, the Cougars catapulted themselves into the AP Top 25 poll for the first time since week three in 2015, securing the No. 25 spot after an impressive weekend in Madison, Wisconsin.
Before the game, Coach Kalani Sitake iterated that his locker room believed in themselves prior to their matchup against the powerhouse No. 6 Wisconsin.
“Our guys see it and believe it,” Sitake said. “With a sense of humility but at the same time, we believe we can win this game. It doesn’t matter what others are saying, this locker room believes that we can win.”
Going in is as the three-touchdown underdogs, the Cougars were never believed to keep the game close let alone actually coming out of the battle as the victors. Trick plays drawn up by the coaching staff and critical thinking proved to make a difference against the No. 6 Badgers.
“We had a really good week of preparation,” Sitake said prior to the game. “I think it has taken a bit of the edge off knowing that no one expects us to do well so I feel like they are a little bit more loose. It might just be the remedy that we need right now.”
With just over 40 seconds remaining and the Wisconsin kicking team on the field, Sitake called a timeout, otherwise known as icing the kicker. After this timeout expired, he proceeded to call a second timeout. The on-air television announcers commented on this being the likely thought process of the Cougars’ coach, to ice the kicker, however, Sitake offered other reasoning.
“Corbin (Kaufusi), he’s our tallest and best field goal blocker and he was huffing, he was tired and breathing hard,” Sitake said. “I wanted my guy to get rest. If we have a chance to block it then the 6’9″ guy on the field probably has the best chance, but he’s got to be fresh. The first timeout I took and he was happy, and then I said do you want another timeout and he said, ‘Yes, please,’ and so I took another timeout. I wasn’t trying to be a jerk to the kicker, I just was trying to get my guys rested.”
Sitake’s tactic worked as the Badgers field goal kicker, a fifth-year senior with a career field goal completion percentage of 79.75, missed what would have been the game-tying kick with 41 seconds left on the clock. This would all but secure the first major upset of the 2018 college football season.
“They executed. They played well,” Badgers head coach Paul Chryst mentioned when asked about his thoughts of the game. “Well coached, really well coached and as I said to start with, give credit to (the coaches).”
Sideline reporter and BYU football alumni Mitchell Juergens offered his thoughts during the postgame show following the Cougars upset of the Badgers.
“Now they’ve got confidence,”Juergens said. “They know if they put forth effort and preparation into the week prior to the game they can beat and compete with anybody.”
The No. 25 Cougars are set to play McNeese State, an FCS team, on Saturday, Sept. 22, at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Tickets for the game can be bought on the Cougars’ website.