Provo • Another week, another highly ranked opponent for BYU’s surprising 3-1 football team a year after the Cougars went 0-4 in the month of September.
And the same amount of infinite respect.
BYU’s players and coaches said all the right things at their weekly Monday media gathering about No. 11 Washington, which will host the No. 20 Cougars on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. MDT at Husky Stadium.
Coach Kalani Sitake said he “definitely” models his program after what coach Chris Petersen is doing at UW in a similar way to what they were doing at the other UW — Wisconsin — before the Cougars sprung the 24-21 upset at Camp Randall Stadium two weeks ago to vault into the national rankings.
“They recruit well and they have a similar build with the academics and the demands they have on their players,” Sitake said. “We admire what they do. We want to be like the [schools] who have success in college football, and they are one of them. It will be fun to see how we measure up to the standard they set. It is going to be a lot of fun and I can’t wait to get our guys out there to play the game.”
BYU linebacker Adam Pulsipher said Washington quarterback Jake Browning is as good as any quarterback the Cougars will face this season.
“They are talented and he is talented,” Pulsipher said. “They’ve got good playmakers and it will be a good test for us.”
Pulsipher also said he looks forward to facing UW’s all-time leading rusher, Myles Gaskins, and even might have given the Huskies a little bit of bulletin board material.
“Luckily we played earlier this last Saturday so we got to catch the end of the Arizona State game [vs. Washington] on TV and watch them play,” Pulsipher said. “Hopefully [Gaskins] is healthy so we get a chance to shut him down.”
Receiver Dylan Collie said Washington’s athleticism will be a challenge.
“It is an athletic group, and they’ve got a great defensive line and great defensive backs,” Collie said. “Their linebackers play physical and they can chase things down and make plays all over the field.”
Sitake is determined to not let BYU’s lofty national ranking go to his players’ heads. He is ignoring the fact that the Cougars moved from No. 25 to No. 20 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. Before last week, BYU had not been ranked since early in the 2015 season after wins over Nebraska and Boise State.
“Things are trending the right way, but we are not really focused on the rankings right now,” Sitake said. “We appreciate that people respect us and what we have done, but we don’t really have time for that stuff. We just got to keep playing and get things fixed.”
“Nobody cares about where you are ranked right now,” he said. “The weights don’t care what color shirt you are wearing. So it really shouldn’t matter what number is attached to your name when you walk into the stadium.”
Sitake said the Cougars also need to get healthy. Starting defenders Zayne Anderson, Butch Pau’u and Dayan Ghanwoloku sat out with injuries against the Cowboys, as did starting fullback Brayden El-Bakri.
Those four are still listed as starters or co-starters on the depth chart released Monday. There were some changes to the two-deep, however, at the receiver positions. Junior Talon Shumway is listed as a starter after catching the first touchdown pass of his career vs. McNeese, and freshman Gunner Romney is at the top of the two-deep at the other receiver position.
Capable backups have helped coaches ease the injured players back into action.
“Every position is a competition,” he said. “If they prove themselves throughout the week, then we will see them on Saturday.”
As for the rankings, Pulsipher said they are not brought up in team meetings and the like, but the players usually keep each other informed via texts and social media.
“When we came out as top 25 [after the Wisconsin win], someone sent a screen shot,” he said. “That was exciting, right? It was something we haven’t done in a while. But I don’t think we did that this weekend.”
Collie said the No. 20 ranking “is not a big part of our conversations” because the Cougars know they have a lot to work on.
“Is it fun? Yeah,” he said. “It is pretty fun. But it is not what we define ourselves as. We have been defining ourselves as a winning culture and a winning team since the new staff got here in January. … It is a number in the big scheme of things, and what matters is what we are doing to progress every single day.”
NO. 20 BYU AT NO. 11 WASHINGTON
When • Saturday, 6:30 p.m. MDT
TV • Ch. 13