After No. 17 BYU put up 66 points and more than 700 offensive yards against Virginia, the Cougars have the chance at another high-octane performance this week.
The Cougars will host FCS opponent Idaho State on Saturday, in what is BYU’s final home game of the 2021 season. The Bengals — currently No. 11 in the Big Sky standings with a 1-7 record — average 15.6 points per game, while giving up 33.8.
Will the Cougars light up the scoreboard again on Senior Day?
“I think a lot of people know that our style isn’t to try to run up the score on people,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We try to secure the win first and then be respectful of what’s going on on the field. That’s every week; it doesn’t matter if it’s Virginia, Utah or Idaho State, that’s what we want to do every week. Some weeks it works better than others, but the focus is to go in this game playing our best guys for 60 minutes.”
Sitake plans to go in with his usual starting roster and then adjust if needed.
The coach said he is expecting his players to go ahead and “empty the tank” as the Cougars will head into their bye week right after.
However, based on how previous meetings between BYU and Idaho State have gone, Sitake will most likely rest the players who are banged up and pull out key starters by halftime. The Cougars have beaten the Bengals in all six previous matchups, most recently 42-10 in Provo in 2019.
That could mean players like receiver Gunner Romney, whom staff decided not to rush back from a knee injury for Virginia, may sit out another game. Against Virginia, BYU sat out Romney, center James Empey, linebacker Chaz Ah You, offensive lineman Harris LaChance, defensive lineman Lorenzo Fauatea and defensive back George Udo.
So far, none of them have been declared out for the remainder of the season.
But, during Monday morning’s Coordinators Corner show on BYUtv, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick did say “we are going to miss James.” Sitake later explained that the difference between Empey coming back this season or not will depend on when the Cougars play their bowl game.
“I’ve seen some comebacks and some guys get healthier than others, so I think he’s in that window where there’s possibly something later down in this year or none at all,” Sitake said. “I don’t think we can say he’s for sure done for the year.”
So, come Saturday, Sitake will have to balance putting together the best lineup with putting together the smartest lineup against the Bengals as the Cougars look to win out the remainder of the season.
After Saturday’s game with Idaho State, and following the bye week, BYU has Georgia Southern and USC left on its regular-season schedule.
Still, Sitake will continue to respect the game at hand and knows the Bengals, albeit with a losing record, come in well-coached and hungry for a win.
“They’ve had some tough games, but also they’ve been competitive,” Sitake said. “They’ve played Nevada and played competitively in the first half and kept things interesting until the fourth quarter. They were hanging in there with Weber as well last week. So I think the most important thing to do in the game of football is for us to perform at our best every week, including this week, and then respect our opponents. Looking forward to being on the field with them.”