Provo • BYU was 3-1 and rolling last year — its best start since going 4-0 in 2014 — when it paid the Washington Huskies a visit. And though the Cougars were brimming with confidence, the result was a 35-7 Washington beatdown that sent them back home with their tail between their legs.
For the BYU players who were on the sideline that day in Seattle, that loss still stings, and the Cougars are determined to get a different outcome when BYU hosts the No. 22 Huskies on Saturday afternoon at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“It’s huge,” BYU receiver Gunner Romney said. “I mean, you always want to prove yourself against everybody, but especially against a team that got the better of you the year before. You have that extra motivation to come out and work hard because you don’t want it to happen again. You kind of play with a chip on your shoulder because they came out on top last year and we want to be able to come out on top this year.”
A year ago, BYU was in a similar situation.
In 2017, Wisconsin came to Provo and embarrassed the Cougars, 40-6. But in last year’s return visit to Madison, BYU turned the tables and stunned the No. 6 Badgers, 24-21 — the high water mark of what ended up a 7-6 finish.
“It's pretty much the same thing,” Romney said. “The team got the better of us the year before, so we want to be able to beat them this year. It's just kind of adds the intensity of practice and that focus, saying we don't want it to happen again. It just kind of helped the team overall with motivation.”
And then there’s this: BYU trails Washington in the series, 6-4, but is 3-1 against the Huskies in Provo.
There is one main difference from last year’s game against Washington — the Huskies are replacing nine defensive starters this season. But even then, there doesn’t seem to be much change in the way Washington is playing.
The Huskies' defense has led the Pac-12 in both scoring defense and total defense the last four years.
BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said a lot of the Huskies that are playing this year played a lot last year. So, they’re still coming back with plenty of experience.
“They've recruited really well and they've developed their players really well within their system,” Grimes said. “They've got really good players and it's a really good system, so it'll be a challenge for sure.”
The Cougars’ defense will face another test in Huskies quarterback Jacob Eason. The junior transfer from Georgia threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns against Hawaii last week.
Ilaisa Tuiaki, BYU defensive coordinator, believes Washington does a good job of getting the ball to its playmakers, though the looks they’ll present BYU are similar to what the Huskies have used in the past.
A big focus for the Cougars this week has been preparing for Washington’s rushing attack, which shredded them last year, Tuiaki said. Still, the Huskies will be difficult to defend.
“They do a lot of things that spread you out in the field and pass game as well as just doing a good job sticking to the run and demanding that they run it,” Tuiaki said. “I don't think there's much difference in scheme, besides they do a good job of getting their playmakers the ball.”
Washington is coming off a dominating 52-20 win against Hawaii, after a stunning loss to Cal. The Huskies will be BYU’s third Pac-12 opponent in four weeks.
The Cougars, of course, are riding high after back-to-back overtime wins against Tennessee and then-No. 24 USC. Romney said the team took the weekend to celebrate the victory over the Trojans, but put it in the rear-view mirror by Monday.
“We don’t think about that game any more,” he said.
Now, BYU has its eyes set on knocking down another ranked opponent in what will be the Huskies first trip to Provo since 1997.
“It was a great learning experience for us last year, and we’re looking to see how much we’ve learned from that and how much we learned from last week,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We’ll see how we match up. I have a lot of respect for that program and what they’ve done since Coach Petersen has been there. I have a lot of connections and friends on that staff and they’ll have them ready. It’s going to be fun to have them here in Provo.”
WASHINGTON AT BYU
At LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Kickoff » Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MT
TV » ABC/ESPN 2
Radio » BYU Radio Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2
Records » BYU 2-1; UW 2-1
All-time series » UW leads 6-4
Last meeting » UW 35, BYU 7 (Sept. 29, 2018)
About BYU » The Cougars are coming off two consecutive OT wins after dropping season opener to Utah. … The Huskies will be BYU’s third Pac-12 opponent in four weeks. … Against USC, Cougar QB Zach Wilson threw for 280 yards and one touchdown on 20-of-33 passing, while running for another score. … The Cougars lead the home series against UW, 3-1.
About UW » After three games, UW takes to the road for the first road game of the 2019 season. … The Huskies will close out their nonconference schedule in Provo before resuming Pac-12 play. … At Hawaii, QB Jacob Eason threw for 262 yards and three TD on 18-of-25 passing. … This will be the Huskies first visit to Provo since 1997.