BYU takes down Texas Tech to move to 5-2 in 2023

Amid the uncertainty of COVID-19 back in 2020, BYU football embraced its famous “any team, any time, any place” mentality.

Fast forwarding to 2023, these current Cougars are clinging to the mantra of “any way, anyhow and by any means necessary.”

Former Raiders owner Al Davis would be proud. Kalani Sitake’s crew is running wild with his “just win, baby” philosophy, most recently Saturday night in a 27-14 win over Texas Tech that likely would have appeared disastrous had the Cougars fallen short.

For the fourth time this year, BYU was out-gained by its opponent. Texas Tech converted 9-18 third downs to BYU’s 4-14 mark. The Cougars — seemingly working to beat the recent “vampire” allegations — scored just three of their points after sunset and managed a meager 78 total yards after halftime.

Who cares? BYU won.

The win column doesn’t show exactly how each victory is achieved, and thank goodness for that. The ugliest 5-2 team — likely BYU — is still in a better spot than the most attractive 4-3 squad.

“Looking at the stats, I know there are a lot of things we need to do better, especially third down on offense and defense,” Sitake said. We did enough to win the game tonight, but we need to do more with the opportunities we are given.”

Even when the Cougars weren’t given “opportunities,” they still created more. BYU’s defense rebounded impressively following an embarrassing showing at TCU last week by forcing five Texas Tech turnovers along with two more fourth down stops. Eddie Heckard, Jakob Robinson and Ethan Slade all snatched interceptions, with Heckard falling on a loose ball in the end zone for an early defensive score.

“I like seeing more disruption on the field,” Sitake said. “I know we still have a lot of guys getting used to the schemes, so there were definitely plays we should have capitalized on, but our guys were active tonight and saved us with a few big plays.”

Even punter Ryan Rehkow recovered one of his own muffed punts. Nothing captures the majesty of winning ugly quite like a fumble recovery from your punter. Just give Rehkow the Ray Guy award already.

Kedon Slovis finished the night 15-27 in passing for 127 yards and two scores, but it was BYU’s run game that ended up stealing the show on offense. LJ Martin logged a career-high 93 yards on the ground, with Aidan Robbins adding 49 more in his return from injury as the Cougars ran for a combined 150 yards as a team at five yards a pop.

“It’s definitely a breakthrough, and it’s good to have that confidence as well,” Robbins said of the run game. “I watched it on TV last week, it was heartbreaking for me to hear the announcers say that we had one of the worst run games in the country, so I personally took that to heart, because that’s not who we are, especially with who we’ve got up front and who we’ve got in the running back room. We came to practice with the right mindset, we grinded and did more than what was required of us, and that showed on the field.”

Darius Lassiter led the receiving charge with four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown, including one of the most impressive catches in school history as he used one hand to snag a contested sideline toss from Slovis.

“Any time a ball’s in the air, it’s mine,” Lassiter said. “That’s my mindset.”

Tight end Isaac Rex grabbed four balls for 41 yards and Chase Roberts added a touchdown reception as well. Will Ferrin drilled two field goals to complete BYU’s scoring effort.

Despite everything seemingly wrong with them thus far, the Cougars have clawed to a 5-2 mark on the season, needing just one more win to earn bowl eligibility for their first season in the Big 12. BYU faces a tall task next week in traveling to Texas to face the No. 7 Longhorns, who are projected to be without star quarterback Quinn Ewers. Can you say “golden opportunity?”

“The expectation is to win every game, so not to say it’s expected to be here, it is definitely a blessing to be where we’re at,” Slade said. “We’ve worked really hard to be here, and it’s paying off.”

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