Provo • BYU’s goal of getting to a bowl game was in jeopardy last month after consecutive losses to Washington, Toledo and South Florida, and tough games ahead against Boise State and Utah State.
But guess what? The Cougars rallied to beat both the Broncos and Aggies, putting their season — and their postseason goals — back on solid footing going into Saturday’s game against Idaho State at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The Cougars, seemingly, have salvaged their season — but only if they take care of business against the FCS Bengals in their final home game of the season.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake isn’t too concerned with bowl eligibility, though. Instead, he’s focused on making sure the 19 seniors that will be celebrated Saturday have a great final home game.
“All the energy's focused on getting a win for the seniors in their last game in LaVell Edwards Stadium,” Sitake said. “We're not even worried about that other stuff. Just trying to go 1-0 this week for the seniors.”
But while Sitake may play it cool, his seniors aren’t so circumspect. They know what a win over ISU means.
“Players understand that being bowl eligible is very huge for this program,” senior receiver Aleva Hifo said. “It’s big, something that we need. Wins overall is what we need as well. And just being able to have an opportunity to play another game with these seniors and extending our season all the way to December. That’s our main focus this week, is to be able to execute and win this game like it’s another game.”
But even with the importance of the game in mind, the seniors also want to enjoy their final home game.
Senior receiver Micah Simon, who came to BYU in 2015, has changed things up a bit this year. Not so much in his play, which has been solid all year, but in the way he approaches the games.
Simon believes he used to get too locked into games. He would be the first guy to go back into the locker room after warm ups, put on his headphones, turn on his music and stay to himself until it was time to play.
Looking back, Micah said he thought he was too uptight and didn't enjoy the moment.
He didn’t want to do that this year — his final season in a BYU uniform. Now, he’s usually the last one to leave the field after warm-up.
“This season, warm-ups are going on and — in home games or away games — I’m just looking around the stadium, just soaking it in,” Simon said. “Especially this year, I only had six more opportunities left in LaVell Edwards Stadium. It’s just been something that I’ve done to just soak it in and stay in the moment and just enjoy it.”
Even though Idaho State is just 3-7, the Cougars say there is no way they will overlook the Bengals. Senior tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau said he and his teammates have learned some hard lessons this season — delivered in those losses to Toledo and South Florida.
“We all know now not to overlook teams we should beat because on any given day, especially in college football, any team can come out and win,” Laulu-Pututau said. “We’re not going to overlook then. We’re just going to prepare like we always have and prepare from our mistakes from last game and move forward.”
IDAHO STATE AT BYU
At LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo
Kickoff » Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV » BYUtv
Radio » 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius 143
Records » BYU 5-4; ISU 3-7
All-time series » BYU leads 5-0
Last meeting » BYU 59, ISU 13 (Nov. 16, 2013)
About BYU » The Cougars are riding a three-game winning streak after defeating Liberty 31-24. … Kalani Sitake won’t name his starting quarterback — Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall or Baylor Romney — until game time. The last time the Cougars and Bengals met, BYU totaled 578 yards (431 rushing yards). … This series hasn’t been close, with every game a Cougar blowout (avg. BYU 37.6, ISU 7.2).
About Idaho State » The Bengals have dropped their last four games. … Quarterback Matt Struck has thrown for 2,172 yards, 10 interceptions and 20 TDs on 51.6% passing. … Junior wide receiver Tanner Connor has 46 receptions for 786 yards and eight touchdowns. … ISU will close out their season on a two-game roadtrip, starting at BYU.