Provo • BYU coach Kalani Sitake apparently doesn’t have much of a poker face. Asked about the improvement of BYU’s running game against Tennessee and what it could mean for the offense in the future, he looked a little like a guy trying to hide the hot hand.
“We just need to score points,” Sitake said at Monday’s news conference. “He was on the field and he got us in the end zone and that is all I care about.”
Translation: Probably expect to see more of Ty’Son Williams following his performance in BYU’s 29-26 double overtime win at Tennessee.
The Cougars, who host No. 24 USC Saturday at 1:30 p.m., benefited not only from Williams’ game-winning rumble, but also in the way his presence changed the game.
Williams, a transfer from South Carolina, finished the game with 17 carries for 92 yards as he gave the Cougars a new wrinkle in the offense. Williams had 10 carries for 71 yards in the second half when the Cougars overcame a 13-3 deficit.
“We didn’t make too many changes at halftime,” BYU offensive lineman Brady Christensen said. “We just executed better in the second half running the ball, and when you run the ball it just opens the air game up too.”
Christensen said Williams’ presence also changed the team’s mentality.
“Every run he can break it,” he said. “I’m not saying we block harder, but we do have the mentality of never knowing when he is going to break a 40- or 50-yarder.”
Rather than just focus on one aspect of the win, Sitake preferred to stress the way the Cougars improved in most areas, noting a complete game will be necessary against the Trojans.
“We want to take advantage of the opportunity to have a ranked team coming into our stadium again,” he said. “There are a lot of things in all three phases that we can adjust and improve on. We made some improvements from week one to week two, but I’d like to see it continue.”
Stopping USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, who went 28 of 33 for 377 yards and three touchdowns in the Trojans’ 45-20 win over Stanford, will be foremost for BYU’s defense.
“I was watching the game and he is a good quarterback,” defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga said. “It’s going to be fun. The offensive line is very good and the receivers are great.”
The Cougars struggled to put together back-to-back wins against quality competition last year, beating Arizona then losing to Cal, then beating Wisconsin but losing to Washington and Utah State in the following weeks.
Sitake said one difference could be that the Cougars are much healthier this year than they were last year coming out of some of those key games. Apparently one of the Cougars’ most notable injuries sustained at Tennessee was to the coach, who hurt his ankle running down the sideline.
“It’s a winning ankle so it feels awesome,” he said.