PROVO — It's one of Ross Apo’s fondest memories while playing for BYU.
As a freshman, Apo caught a 6-yard touchdown pass from Jake Heaps at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in the first half to lift the Cougars to a 13-0 lead against Texas in 2011. Legions of burnt orange-clad Longhorn fans looked on in stunned silence.
“I just remember being up on those guys and having the stadium quiet,” said Apo, now a senior, about that play. “I think there were 100,000 people and you could hear a pin drop in there.”
BYU went on to fall to Texas that night, 17-16.
“It was pretty bad,” recalled Apo, a native of Arlington, Texas, who originally committed to Texas out of high school. “We were mad because we knew we could have won the game. We kind of gave it up to them. It was a big game. Texas was ranked at the time. We could have won the game.”
The Cougars avenged that disappointing 2011 loss with a shocking 40-21 rout of the Longhorns in Provo last September.
“Last year made up for it,” Apo said, smiling. “That was fun to be a part of.”
Now, it’s Texas that has revenge on its mind as BYU visits Austin Saturday (5:30 p.m. MDT, Fox Sports S 1).
The Longhorns missed countless tackles and allowed BYU quarterback Taysom Hill to run for 259 yards at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The following day, then-head coach Mack Brown fired defensive coordinator Manny Diaz. By the end of the season, Brown was gone, too.
“I don’t see why they wouldn’t be fired up to play us,” Apo said. “A big program like that and we’re coming to their house. There’s no way they’re going to allow what happened in Provo. We’ve just got to go out and play exactly the way we played them last year.”
BYU opened the 2014 season with a resounding 35-10 win at Connecticut last Friday while Texas pounded North Texas, 38-7, Saturday in coach Charlie Strong’s debut.
The Longhorns are eagerly awaiting this rematch with BYU. After the game, Strong said the Cougars “embarrassed” his team last season.
What advice does Apo have for his teammates who haven’t played in that atmosphere at Texas before?
“I’ll tell them that the lights are bright. You’ve got to zone in and focus,” he said. “Don’t let all their music and players and outside distractions get to you and focus on the game. I always enjoy going back to Texas. I always play better when I go back home. It will be fun.”
Against UConn, the Cougars racked up 513 yards of total offense — 308 passing and 205 rushing. Hill completed 28 of 36 passes and three touchdowns. He also ran for 97 yards and two more TDs.
“It gives us a lot of momentum going into Texas,” Hill said of his team’s performance. “Obviously, that environment will likely be a little bit different playing there. It’s a challenge that we’re excited for and we’re up for. We obviously weren’t as clean as we wanted to be, but a lot of good things to build off.”
Another Cougar looking forward to the trip to Texas is senior tight end Devin Mahina.
Prior to the 2011 season, Mahina suffered a season-ending neck injury, which meant he couldn’t play against the Longhorns. Many relatives on his mother’s side of the family live near Austin, so he’s happy for a chance to play at Texas.
“They’ll be at the game and I’m excited to show them up again,” Mahina said. “They have love for me because I’m their cousin, but you could tell they were disappointed in the Longhorns last year. It’s a huge game this year. I hope that stadium is packed and I hope we win.”
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company