by Mike Miller
Can it get any better than this? In one of the best weeks in the school’s athletic history, BYU became a Power 5 program and knocked off Utah in front of a raucous Lavell Edwards Stadium. On Friday, athletic director Tom Holmoe made official what has been expected for a while now—BYU will be a member of the Big 12 beginning in 2023. The Cougars followed up that news with an emphatic Holy War victory on Saturday. Combined with successful performances in soccer, volleyball, and cross country, BYU is riding into this week on cloud nine.
The Cougars took advantage of the energy from their first full-capacity home crowd since 2019 and got off to a strong start, forcing two turnovers and jumping out to an early 10-0 lead. The impressive performance out of the gate was indicative of how the rest of the night would go for BYU. They controlled the game, save a few nervy second half moments, from start to finish.
The star of the team was the defense, which forced Utah off of the field time and again with an interception, fumble recovery, and two failed fourth down attempts. Couple that with the Utes going 2-9 on third down and the Cougars were able to hold their lead throughout the night.
On offense, BYU shook off some early jitters and began to put together commanding drives that wore down the Utah defensive line. The Cougars held the ball for almost 11 minutes longer than Utah, buoyed by an 11-19 conversion rate on third downs. BYU’s sustained drives were characterized by an impressive rushing performance by running back Tyler Allgeier (102 yards, 27 carries) and quarterback Jaren Hall (92 yards, 8 carries). Hall also had an efficient passing night as he threw for 149 yards and three touchdowns. His job was made easier by a dominating night from the offensive line, which did not allow Utah to record a sack.
The complete package on Saturday night for coach Kalani Sitake meant his team knocked Utah out of the AP Top 25 and joined the rankings themselves at the number 23 in the country.
Next Up: The home crowd is hoping for another late-night Saturday treat from the Cougars as they host #19 Arizona State in a ranked duel from Provo. Kickoff is set for 8:15 p.m. MST on ESPN.
The ladies started rivalry week off with a visit to Utah on Thursday night. The game was a chance for both teams to showcase their defensive powers as the game finished with a 0-0 tie. The Cougars were able to release their offensive muscles on Saturday, however, as they exploded for seven goals against visiting Missouri in a game that finished 7-4. A 3-0 halftime lead for BYU was enough to take them through a chaotic second half that featured a goal nearly every five minutes on average. The attack was led by Cameron Tucker and Abbie Kotter, who each grabbed two goals.
Next Up: South Field hosts a pair of BYU home games as Idaho State (Thursday, 7:00 pm mountain time) and Utah State (Saturday, 6:00 pm mountain time) come to town.
The women’s volleyball team travelled to Pennsylvania for the Panther Challenge, hosted by the University of Pittsburgh. The team returned with a winning record across the three games they played. A pair of sweeps over Bowling Green and High Point University bookended a 3-1 set loss to Pitt.
While the Cougars will be disappointed they were unable to win all three games, Pitt is the fourth-ranked team in the country, so even getting a set off of them is no small feat. BYU will likely stay near the same number 12 spot when the latest set of rankings are revelaed.
Next Up: A pair of in-state games will also include a Holy War encore doubling as a ranked showdown and revenge game. Utah comes to Provo on Thursday at 7:00 p.m. MST for a highly anticipated match at the Smith Fieldhouse. The Utes upset BYU with a sweep in last year’s NCAA tournament game from Provo, so the Cougars will have revenge on their minds. Utah will also be riding high as they knocked off third-ranked Nebraska on their home court Saturday night. The Utes, who were ranked number 20 last week, will be expecting a much higher ranking by the time Thursday’s match rolls around. On Saturday, the Cougars will play another cross-town clash as they travel to Orem to play UVU at 6:00 p.m. MST.
The first meets of the season for both the men’s and the women’s teams were Saturday as BYU hosted the Autumn Classic. The men and women each won the team titles in their respective races. On the men’s side, defending national champion Conner Mantz cruised to a first-place finish with a time of 22:17.5. The ladies were dominant throughout as they had the first nine runners complete the course, with Aubrey Frentheway leading the way with a 17:39.1. The Cougars had five runners post times below the 18-minute mark and all nine finished within 15 seconds of each other.
Next Up: The men have the week off while the women head to a meet hosted by Florida State on Friday at 6:10 a.m. MST.
Featured image courtesy Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News