Saturday’s win was never in question.
BYU was quick to score and scored often in what turned into a 59-14 win over FCS opponent Idaho State on Saturday in LaVell Edwards Stadium.
But now the question is: Can the Cougars finish with a 10-win record and finish ranked in the Top 15 of the AP Poll for a consecutive year?
On Sunday, BYU came in at No. 14 in the latest AP Poll. If the Cougars finish the season in the Top 15, it would be the first time since 1983-84 that BYU has finished consecutive seasons in the AP Top 15. If the Cougars win at least two of their three remaining games, it will be the first time BYU has recorded a 10-win season in consecutive years since the Cougars went on a streak of 10-win seasons through 2006-2009.
Senior defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua, who’s been with the program since 2016, said it’s been rewarding to see the program’s improvement throughout his career, particularly since he started the same year as coach Kalani Sitake’s first season.
“Kalani has found his groove, and I’m so glad the foundation we’ve laid is starting to pay off,” Leiataua said. “Like I said earlier in the year, last year was not a fluke. This is a continued thing we want to build. Hopefully next year, when I’m gone, the seniors next year can build up on that.”
Holding off the Bengals
Although the BYU offense had a noticeable drop in production in the second half, the defense stayed on par.
While Idaho State scored twice — once in the second quarter and once in the third quarter — both scores came off short fields. Both touchdowns were converted off BYU turnovers, specifically fumbles.
Still, Idaho State’s 14 points and 238 total yards of offense were both lows for BYU opponents this season.
The BYU defense also kept Idaho State to 1 of 12 third down conversions.
“I loved seeing all the younger guys get reps in today,” Leiataua said. “In our warmups, we have a circle for D-linemen, and all of a sudden our circle was huge today. I was glad to see a lot of them play.”
Because BYU was able to rest some guys that were already banged up and pulled the majority of key starters after the first half, the Cougars were able to play into their depth and give some players — both young and veterans — valuable game minutes.
On the defensive side, Matthew Criddle came away with five tackles, one pass breakup and his first career interception. The linebacker put up the biggest defensive performance of the day.
Criddle was one of 14 players that were recognized during Senior Day festivities.
“It was a major blessing,” Criddle said. “It’s a dream come true that I got this opportunity. I’m grateful for the outcome, and to be able to make the most of it with the opportunities I was given. I’m just grateful for the coaches for trusting in me and my teammates as well.”
On the offensive side, Keanu Hill emerged as a future star for the Cougars.
The wide receiver made four catches for 92 yards and a touchdown. Depending on which guys choose to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility that was extended last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hill could make a case to be No. 2 in the depth chart.
Hill’s biggest play of the day came at the end of game, when the freshman blocked an Idaho State punt, which Hill recovered in the end zone for a BYU touchdown.
“I feel like I’m always improving every week,” Hill said. “I already know coach [Sitake] knows what I can do on the field. I’ve shown it. So, just to be ready when coach Fesi [Sitake] calls my name and go in and make plays, as he believes in me and I believe in myself.”