Eli Lucero, The Herald Journal
Gary Andersen speaks at a press conference where he was introduced as the new head football coach at Utah State, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018, in Logan, Utah. (Eli Lucero/The Herald Journal via AP)

PROVO — Since BYU coach Kalani Sitake last met with reporters, Utah State hired a new head football coach, Gary Andersen.

Sitake and Andersen are friends who have worked together at Southern Utah, Utah and Oregon State.

Monday, Sitake was asked his reaction to Andersen returning to the helm of the Aggies.

“It’s great. I’ve talked to Gary and I know he’s putting together a staff. I’m excited he’s a head coach again,” Sitake said. “It’s going to be competitive. We’re always going to have our friendship. But I’m looking forward to going up to Logan next year and try to compete and get that win. I’m happy for him.”

Andersen was the head coach at USU from 2009-2012 before stints at Wisconsin (2013-14) and Oregon State (2015-17). He spent the past season as an assistant at Utah.

Sitake served as OSU’s assistant head coach and defensive coordinator in 2015 under Andersen before becoming the Cougars’ head coach.

Andersen replaces Matt Wells, who recently took the head coaching job at Texas Tech.

This season, USU beat BYU 45-20 in Provo. It marked the first time the Aggies have defeated the Cougars in back-to-back seasons since 1973-74.

LEARNING FROM WHITTINGHAM: With a little more than a week before BYU takes on Western Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 21, Sitake is happy with his team’s preparation.

Sitake spent a decade on Kyle Whittingham’s staff at Utah. Whittingham owns the No. 1 career winning percentage (.917) among coaches in bowl games in college football history.

Whittingham's teams have posted an 11-1 record in bowl games.

Sitake said he’s implementing some of the principles that Whittingham uses in preparing for a bowl game.

“I’ve been around some really good coaches that know how to prepare for a bowl game. We’re utilizing a lot of that in what we’re doing with our schedule,” Sitake said. “Kyle’s had a great system going with bowl prep, and we’re doing a lot of the same kind of stuff. It worked out for us when we went to our first bowl game in 2016. We’re doing more with the time we’ve been given. I think we’ve probably had more padded practices this time than last time.”

INTENSE PRACTICES: Because BYU posted a losing record a year ago and didn’t go to a bowl, a lot of players are relishing the experience this year.

“There’s a lot of excitement and energy in it. The guys are excited about the game. It’s fun to have an opponent, so they’re watching a lot more film. We’re trying to balance it out with finals,” Sitake said. “But this has taken a huge priority for a lot of our players, doing it for the seniors. There’s a lot of intensity. There’s fights and stuff going on in practice. We have to condition them and get them ready and remind them that fighting doesn’t help us in football games. But I like the intensity and the competition.”

INJURY UPDATE: While senior defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi and senior running back Matt Hadley will not be available to play in the bowl game due to injuries, the status of other players is still up in the air.

“As far as injuries, we’re feeling good about (running back) Lopini (Katoa) being on the field again,” Sitake said. “Not so good about (linebacker) Isaiah (Kaufusi). We’ll see how it looks this next week.”

VOLLEYBALL SENDOFF: On Monday, the BYU football team wished the Cougar women’s volleyball team well before its trip to Minneapolis for the Final Four.

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Before practice, tight end Matt Bushman, whose wife, Emily, is a member of the women's team, said a few encouraging words, and then the players from both teams sang the BYU fight song together.

“Hopefully they can go as far as they can,” Bushman told reporters last week about the women's volleyball team. “I want them to make history. Emily will have a chance to go to the bowl game and experience that. We haven’t been able to go to many of each other’s games this season. It will be nice to be able to support each other at the tail end of the seasons.”

BYU takes on Stanford in the national semifinals Thursday night.