PROVO — Last September, BYU was drubbed by a pair of nationally ranked teams — Louisiana State and Wisconsin.
The Cougars played uninspired and without confidence, without identity, in those games.
After last Saturday’s 24-21 victory at then-No. 6 Wisconsin, it’s clear that No. 25 BYU is much different than it used to be.
“Since last season, everything. The biggest thing is our mentality. The culture of the team is completely different,” said senior defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi. “That’s probably the biggest thing for us. Just accountability. Guys are taking it upon themselves to do more. There were things the coaches might have been able to do better, or might not, but for the players, we had to take it upon us to put in extra work. We can’t be negative all the time. We’ve got to be positive and we’ve got to work harder. Everyone took that upon themselves.”
“A lot of it has been the culture. He wanted to change our culture of being physically and mentally tough,” said senior safety and holder Gavin Fowler. “Feeling like we can compete anywhere, no matter who we’re playing, no matter where it is and believing in ourselves. Believing that we’ve put in the work, that we deserve to be there, that we belong and that we can compete and execute with anybody. The whole cultural realignment that coach (Kalani) Sitake has tried to implement, you can see it really taking hold this season.”
What is BYU’s identity now?
“The identity is toughness and guys that believe and believe we can make plays and do special things,” said senior offensive lineman Austin Hoyt. “That’s what came out after the win at Wisconsin, that we’re just getting started and that we’re excited for the rest of the season.”
CORBIN THE STREAK-BUSTER: Kaufusi might be the only college athlete in history to snap two longstanding home winning streaks and beat two top 10 teams in two different sports.
As a basketball player for the Cougars, Kaufusi was part of stopping No. 3 Gonzaga’s 41-game home court win streak in 2015.
Last Saturday, he helped BYU halt the No. 6 Badgers’ 41-game non-conference home win streak.
So which was bigger?
“Wisconsin was huge for us,” Kaufusi said. “Don’t get me wrong, Gonzaga was awesome. But for the team, it was incredible. I loved that win.”
MILNE'S IMPACT: BYU freshman walk-on wide receiver Dax Milne, a Bingham High product, made a crucial play in the third quarter of the Wisconsin game. On third-and-goal from the Badger 5-yard line, a Wisconsin defender was whistled for pass interference against Milne in the end zone, giving the Cougars the ball first-and-goal from the 1.6 comments on this story
On the next play, BYU scored a touchdown to take a 21-14 lead.
Sitake pointed out that Milne represents the type of players he wants in the program.
“I look at guys like Dax, a walk-on that had other offers. But he chose to come to BYU,” Sitake said. “There’s a reason why he was on the field against Wisconsin. He deserved to be on the field. The only difference between him and other recruits that we signed was that we ran out of scholarships. It’s important to play the best guys and get the right guys in this program.”