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Steve Griffin
Brigham Young Cougars linebacker Sione Takitaki (16) gets fired up with the rest of the BYU defense after making a tackle during the Wisconsin versus BYU football game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, WI in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2018.

PROVO — Last Saturday afternoon in front of a crowd of more than 80,000 at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin, and an ABC-TV audience, BYU shook up the college football world.

Sunday, the Cougars were rewarded by earning a spot in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since September 2015. BYU checked in at No. 25 in this week's poll.

After being relegated to the realm of irrelevancy a year ago amid a 4-9 season, the Cougars attracted plenty of national attention with a shocking upset of No. 6 Wisconsin, 24-21 — likely ruining the Badgers’ hopes for a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Wisconsin fell to No. 18 in the AP poll.

" All I care about is that we won. I don’t rank anything. Wins are hard to come by so I love them all. "
BYU coach Kalani Sitake

BYU (2-1) has now beaten two Power 5 opponents on the road this season while it has fallen at home to another, California.

Asked where the Wisconsin win ranks in his coaching career, coach Kalani Sitake said, “All I care about is that we won. I don’t rank anything. Wins are hard to come by so I love them all. They’re like my children. I don’t have a favorite. I’ll take them any way I can. This really isn’t about me. It’s about what our players worked hard for.”

Who would have predicted that the Cougars would have two wins at this point of the season?

BYU can improve to 3-1 when it hosts FCS opponent McNeese State Saturday (4 p.m. MDT, BYUtv).

Yes, the Cougars have experienced a roller coaster of a season so far. BYU was riding high after beating Arizona to open the season, then it suffered a deflating loss at home to Cal before upsetting Wisconsin.

“We put that last game to rest,” BYU wide receiver Aleva Hifo said of the setback to the Golden Bears after throwing a 31-yard touchdown pass, running five times for 45 yards and catching three passes for 32 yards against Wisconsin. “It was nice to bounce back and have a win like this.”

What a difference a year makes.

In Provo last September, the Badgers steamrolled BYU 40-6, as the Cougars failed to score a touchdown.

“These guys were monsters last year,” Sitake of the Badgers.

But BYU proved how far it's come over the past 12 months — rushing for 191 yards and limiting Wisconsin to 21 points.

“We just have to play like that every week,” Sitake said. “We have another game next week and we’ve got to put this away and fix the mistakes that we made. We’re going to enjoy it. We’ve got to get back to work as soon as we can.”

The Cougars made believers out of the Badgers.

“We knew BYU was a completely different animal from last year,” Wisconsin running back Garrett Groshek told the Wisconsin State Journal. "You could tell on the film. You could tell from the previous games that they’re a really good team. They came out to play today. That’s kind of it. We respected them, knew they were a good team coming in, and they just played well."

"They out-executed us," said Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Edwards.

Defensively, BYU held Wisconsin quarterback Alex Hornibrook to 18 of 28 passing for 190 yards. Linebacker Zayne Anderson intercepted Hornibrook once, setting up a Cougar touchdown, and BYU sacked Hornibrook twice.

The nation’s leading rusher coming into the week, Jonathan Taylor, ran 26 times for 117 yards, well below his average of 199 yards per game. Taylor did not score a touchdown.

Sitake credited defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki.

“Coach Tuiaki had great game plan,” he said. “He and his staff did an amazing job to contain this offense that can be really explosive.”

Linebacker Sione Takitaki recorded 13 tackles, a sack and two tackles-for-loss while Anderson had 11 tackles to go along with his pick and a pass breakup.

What made BYU’s defensive performance even more impressive was the fact that starting linebacker Butch Pau’u did not play due to injury while safety Dayan Ghanwoloku missed much of the game due to injury.

Adam Pulsipher, Riggs Powell, Isaiah Kaufusi, Lorenzo Fauatea and Zac Dawe (who recorded his first career sack at a critical juncture late in the game) were among those who made big defensive contributions in the win.

“We played a lot of young guys today,” Sitake said. “We were banged up. It was a team win … We made mistakes but the guys’ effort and everybody doing their job won the game.”

“Everyone stepped up. They rose to the occasion,” said defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi. “For us, it was trust that everything was going to go smoothly. Those guys are a huge part of our defense. It was trusting the guys behind them. If one guy goes out and you let that get to your head, then that can crush a whole defense. Those guys are great but there are other guys that can step up and do what they need to do.”

On offense, BYU was without two injured players — fullback Brayden El-Bakri and wide receiver Neil Pau’u. Meanwhile, Keanu Saleapaga, a converted defensive lineman, earned his first career start at left guard, replacing Thomas Shoaf.

Running back Squally Canada rushed 11 times for 118 yards, including a 44-yard run in the first half and a 46-yard run in the second half.

Canada said his big runs were set up by the Cougars’ effective use of the jet sweep.

“I wish I could stay another night and go up and see Jamaal play tomorrow,” Canada said, referring to former teammate Jamaal Williams, who now plays for the Green Bay Packers.

But BYU is back home and it will be looking for its first home win of the season Saturday.

“We’re going to enjoy this, for sure,” said quarterback Tanner Mangum. “But come Monday, it’s back to work, getting ready for McNeese State.”

McNeese State (3-0) at No. 25 BYU (2-1)

  • Saturday, 4 p.m. MDT, LaVell Edwards Stadium
  • TV: BYUtv
  • Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM

Associated Press Top 25 poll

The Top 25 teams in The Associated Press college football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Sept. 15, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote, and previous ranking:

Record Pts. Pv

1. Alabama (58) 3-0 1,521 1

2. Georgia 3-0 1,416 3

3. Clemson (3) 3-0 1,405 2

4. Ohio St. 3-0 1,357 4

5. Oklahoma 3-0 1,283 5

6. LSU 3-0 1,241 12

7. Stanford 3-0 1,055 9

8. Notre Dame 3-0 1,034 8

9. Auburn 2-1 958 7

10. Washington 2-1 947 10

10. Penn St. 3-0 947 11

12. West Virginia 2-0 841 14

13. Virginia Tech 2-0 816 13

14. Mississippi St. 3-0 790 16

15. Oklahoma St. 3-0 587 24

16. UCF 2-0 556 18

17. TCU 2-1 502 15

18. Wisconsin 2-1 486 6

19. Michigan 2-1 448 19

20. Oregon 3-0 399 20

21. Miami 2-1 362 21

22. Texas A&M 2-1 193 NR

23. Boston College 3-0 130 NR

24. Michigan St. 1-1 86 25

25. BYU 2-1 75 NR

Others receiving votes: Iowa 64, Boise St. 62, Duke 61, Colorado 49, California 40, Kentucky 38, South Florida 14, Texas 12, NC State 10, Arizona St. 9, Missouri 8, Utah 6, San Diego St. 5, North Texas 4, South Carolina 4, Washington St. 2, Syracuse 2.

Amway Coaches Top 25 poll

The Amway Top 25 football poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Sept. 15, total points based on 25 points for first place through one point for 25th, and previous ranking:

Record Pts Pvs

1. Alabama (60) 3-0 1,572 1

2. Clemson (2) 3-0 1,477 2

3. Georgia 3-0 1,436 3

4. Ohio State (1) 3-0 1,405 4

5. Oklahoma 3-0 1,339 5

6. LSU 3-0 1,171 13

7. Stanford 3-0 1,116 9

8. Notre Dame 3-0 1,083 8

9. Penn State 3-0 1,070 10

10. Virginia Tech 2-0 927 11

11. Auburn 2-1 921 7

12. Washington 2-1 909 12

13. West Virginia 2-0 824 15

14. Mississippi State 3-0 780 16

15. Oklahoma State 3-0 672 19

16. Wisconsin 2-1 626 6

17. TCU 2-1 508 14

18. UCF 2-0 500 18

19. Oregon 3-0 384 23

20. Miami 2-1 373 20

21. Michigan 2-1 354 22

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22. Texas A&M 2-1 150 NR

23. Michigan State 1-1 141 24

24. Boise State 2-1 114 17

25. Boston College 3-0 109 NR

Others receiving votes: Kentucky 98, Duke 55, South Florida 45, Colorado 41, South Carolina 40, Iowa 36, Washington State 35, BYU 30, Missouri 21, N.C. State 19, Appalachian State 13, California 11, Syracuse 11, Cincinnati 10, Utah 10, Texas 9, North Texas 5, Troy 4, Arizona State 3, Florida 3, Minnesota 3, San Diego State 3, Arkansas State 2, Houston 2, Tennessee 2, Vanderbilt 2, Fresno State 1.