PROVO — To pull off a monumental victory like the one BYU did last Saturday over then-No. 6 Wisconsin, the Cougars needed a lot of players, and coaches, to contribute in impactful ways in all phases of the game at Camp Randall Stadium.
“It’s really special to go into a place like that, a hostile environment, with a really good team and to compete and come out on top is always fun,” said senior Gavin Fowler, who was the holder on what turned out to be the game-winning, 45-yard field goal by placekicker Skyler Southam. “More so, it’s seeing the state of the program, where we feel like we compete with anybody and we can do that and execute at every level with lots of guys contributing and lots of guys making big plays and coming up big when we needed them to. It’s really special and really fun to see the program move in a good direction.”
As the old adage says, to the victors go the spoils.
In the 48 hours following BYU’s historic 24-21 upset of the Badgers, honors have been rolling in.
For starters, on Sunday the Cougars (2-1) returned to the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in three years, checking in at No. 25.
“I think it means more to the people that doubted us,” defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi said of the ranking. “That’s what is big for us. A lot of people have doubted us and were unsure of things. We’ve put a lot of that to rest.”
On Monday, BYU was named the NCAA’s Team of the Week and the Reveal Suits National Team of the Week by the Football Writers Association of America.
"It was a team win,” coach Kalani Sitake said after Saturday's game. “The players were gritty and they played hard and with a lot of toughness. I was really pleased with their effort."
Individually, linebacker Sione Takitaki was named the College Sports Madness National Player of the Week, while running back Squally Canada received Independent Offensive Player of the Week honors. And offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes was named Athlon Sports Coordinator of the Week.
Among those who turned in remarkable performances for the Cougars included Takitaki, who recorded 13 tackles, two tackles-for-loss and one sack against the Badgers. He even left the game for a time with an injury but returned to finish the contest.
“We felt like he could make those plays. (Defensive coordinator Ilaisa) Tuiaki doesn’t get enough credit for what he does defensively,” Sitake said. “The D-line came ready to play. We used a lot of guys up front. It was such a cool battle to watch.”
Takitaki credited the preparation that went into facing Wisconsin.
“The coaches put us in good situations to make plays,” he said. “It was a good scheme.”
On the offensive side of the ball, Canada outrushed Badger running back Jonathan Taylor, a Heisman Trophy candidate, and ran for a pair of touchdowns. Canada gained 118 yards compared to 117 for Taylor, averaging 10.7 yards per carry to Taylor's 4.5.
This season, Canada averages 5.2 yards per carry and has scored five TDs. He had a 45-yard run and a 44-yard run against Wisconsin.
“I love Squally. He’s a guy that’s come so far in the short time that I’ve been here,” Grimes said during the Coordinators’ Corner show Monday. “From where he was this spring, even from where he was at times during fall camp, to where he is now, it’s the confidence and energy that he brings to our offense. I just know that if we give him a crease, he’s going to find running room. That gives me great confidence as a play-caller.”
Then there’s wide receiver Aleva Hifo, who did a little bit of everything against Wisconsin.
On BYU’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Hifo picked up 12 yards on a jet sweep. Early in the second quarter, he threw a 31-yard touchdown strike to tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau on a trick play.
Hifo finished with 45 yards rushing on five carries and 32 more yards on three receptions.
“He’s a great athlete. He was that when we recruited him,” Sitake said of Hifo. “He has a lot of speed. There’s a lot of trust in our players. Aleva felt like he could get it done on that throw. We practiced that a bunch … It worked well.”
Sitake praised Grimes and the rest of the coaching staff for devising a successful game plan that was executed by the players.28 comments on this story
“We spread the ball around. I’ve already heard a lot of people say, ‘Why didn’t we give Squally the ball more?’ Because that wasn’t the game plan,” he said. “The game plan was to take what was there. I think maybe Wisconsin thought we were going to pound the ball with Squally the entire time. We had to spread it out and stretch the defense out a little bit. Squally was able to puncture through on a couple of runs. The O-line did a good job blocking outside and the interior. I’m pleased with what they’re doing as a staff. Grimes has no ego. He works well with our staff.”
Yes, it was a team win for BYU — and the nation has taken notice.
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McNeese State (3-0)
at No. 25 BYU (2-1)
Saturday, 4 p.m. MDT LaVell Edwards Stadium
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