LAS VEGAS — If BYU is to earn its third victory of the season here in Sin City, the Cougars may need to do a little bit of gambling.
As in, being more successful on fourth-down plays.
Twice the Cougars failed on fourth-and-1 last week against Fresno State, including a Beau Hoge pass that was knocked down late in the game, negating a chance to tie the score.
“I want to go for it on fourth and an inch or fourth and short. I think we should be able to do that against 15 guys on the field,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “There’s got to be some plays where you just know you can get it. It becomes time for an offense to gut it up and make a play. If it’s ever fourth-and-1, I’m more inclined to go for it. I’d like to have our offense meet the demands that I want.”
In the first half, in Bulldog territory, BYU wasn’t able to convert on fourth-and-1 when fullback Brayden El-Bakri was stopped short.
The Cougars miss running back Ula Tolutau, who hasn’t played in weeks after his off-field issues.
“Ula was a very good short-yardage back that could go and get it on his own,” said offensive coordinator Ty Detmer. “Brayden, we feel like he’s the next-best guy as far as that goes.”
Detmer is looking for improved performance on fourth down.
“That’s Kalani’s call whether we go for it or not,” he said. “Then we obviously game plan and put a plan together that these are our short-yardage calls whether it’s fourth-and-one, fourth-and-two, third-and-one, third-and-two. You practice those and you hope you can execute them. Obviously last week we didn’t.”
VIVA LAS VEGAS: For years, Sam Boyd Stadium was BYU’s home away from home as the Cougars played in five consecutive Las Vegas Bowls from 2005-2009.
Plus, the Cougars played here regularly as members of the Mountain West Conference.
BYU is 16-3 all-time against UNLV, including a perfect 8-0 versus the Rebels at Sam Boyd Stadium.
Oddly, all three of the Cougars’ losses to UNLV have been in Provo.
HOMECOMING: Former BYU running back Kalin Hall is planning to attend Friday’s game with plenty of family and friends. Hall, the father of running back KJ Hall, is a native of Las Vegas.
“I have tons of friends down there,” Kalin said. “It’s always good to go home and see friends and see how things are going in the old stomping grounds. I would expect we’ll have a lot of people there. I have a sister and a brother down there. We’ll have some family at the game.”