LaVell Edwards Stadium
1700 North Canyon Road Provo UT 84604
No. 25 BYU earns home victory 30-3 over McNeese State
PROVO, Utah – A 24-point second quarter, led by freshman Lopini Katoa’s two touchdowns, gave the No. 25 BYU football team a 30-3 win over McNeese State at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
It was the first meeting between BYU and McNeese, as well as the Cougars’ lone Football Championship Subdivision matchup of the year. The upset-minded Cowboys came into Provo ranked No. 10 among FCS teams.
"Obviously there are some things we can fix to get better, but I think I will say that after every game," head coach Kalani Sitake said. "I thought it was good to celebrate the win and get to the next game. We will celebrate this one and get ready for Washington."
Katoa led BYU in scoring, notching two touchdowns en route to 24 points in the second quarter. He also led the running game with 64 yards on 10 attempts. Senior Squally Canada was right behind Katoa with 57 yards on 10 attempts. Matt Hadley got his first action at running back of the season, running for a team-high 20 yarder in the fourth quarter.
BYU’s passing game featured nine players getting receptions, with six players going for double-digit receiving yards. Aleva Hifo led the group with 38 yards, while Talon Shumway had the lone score among the receivers with a 7-yard touchdown.
On the defensive side, the Cougars forced four turnovers, a new season high, with two fumbles and two interceptions. Senior Michael Shelton led the squad with six tackles, all of them solo, and forced the first fumble of his career. Corbin Kaufusi was next with five tackles, including one sack, as well as a blocked field goal early in the decisive second quarter.
McNeese marched down the field following the opening kickoff, making it all the way to the BYU 38-yard line before a tackle for loss by Chris Wilcox on third down forced a punt. The Cougars were unable to capitalize on their opening drive after a fumble that they managed to recover set them behind the chains.
BYU’s defense appeared to stop the Cowboys on third down once again on the following drive, but a facemask penalty gave the offense an automatic first down and great field position in the red zone. The Cougars were able to hold the Cowboys to a field goal, going down 3-0 midway through the first quarter.
BYU fumbled it again on the following drive, but this time the Cowboys recovered it for the first lost fumble of the the season. The Cougar defense once again forced a field goal attempt, which the Cowboys missed wide.
Katoa gave BYU its first big play of the game with a 15-yard run on the next drive, a new career high for the freshman. Unfortunately the Cougars were unable to extend the drive, bringing in Danny Jones to punt back to the Cowboys. McNeese was able to bring the ball up to its own 42-yard line before the end of the first quarter.
- BYU’s lost fumble late in the first quarter was the first of the season for the Cougars, and Squally Canada’s first lost fumble since his first BYU carry in the 2015 Las Vegas Bowl
- Freshman Danny Jones’ first BYU punt went for 38 yards
- Chris Wilcox had two tackles for loss
- The Cougars kept the Cowboys from converting a third-down attempt on three tries
McNeese quarterback James Tabary threw a 39-yard pass to Cyron Sutton early in the second quarter to bring the Cowboys up to the BYU 26-yard line. Corbin Kaufusi blocked a field goal attempt and it was recovered by Troy Warner and returned for a 22-yard gain. BYU then quickly moved the ball up the field, and Katoa punched in a 4-yard touchdown run to put the Cougars up 7-3 with 8:42 left in the first half.
Tanner Jacobson intercepted a McNeese pass early on the following drive, putting BYU’s offense back on the 31-yard line. Canada then broke away for a 16-yard run to bring the Cougars inside the 20. A 7-yard pass gave wide receiver Talon Shumway his first career touchdown, and put BYU up double digits, 14-3, with 6:37 left in the first half.
Corbin Kaufusi was then able to pursue and sack the McNeese quarterback on third down, followed by 21-yard punt return by Shelton. Canada topped his previous game-high run with an 18-yard breakaway, followed by a 14-yard run by Katoa into the end zone for his second touchdown of the game.
A fumble on the Cowboys’ first play of the following drive was recovered by the Sawyer Powell, putting BYU back on the 25-yard line. A 30-yard field goal from Skyler Southam gave BYU a 24-3 lead heading into halftime. The Cougars forced two turnovers and converted them into 10 points in the second quarter alone, scoring 24 unanswered points in the period.
- Corbin Kaufusi blocked his fourth career kick
- Katoa’s 4-yard touchdown was the first of his career. He got his second TD from 14 yards out seven minutes later
- Tanner Jacobson reeled in his first BYU interception
- The 7-yard touchdown for Talon Shumway was his first trip to the end zone. It was also the first time a BYU wide receiver scored a touchdown this season
- Kaufusi’s second-quarter sack was his third this season and increased his career total to 11.5
- The Cougar defense finished the first half without allowing a third-down conversion on five attempts
The Cougars opened the second half with their longest drive of the night so far, taking six minutes to march 70 yards down the field and kick a field goal, extending their lead to 24 points at 27-3.
Later in the third quarter, linebacker Rhett Sandlin intercepted a McNeese pass on third down, giving the Cougars their seventh-consecutive third-down stop. This was BYU’s first game of the season with multiple interceptions and first overall since the UNLV game last season.
Southam then hit a 47-yard field goal, the longest of his career, to get BYU to 30 points, surpassing its previous season-high of 28 points at Arizona in the season opener. It was also the Cougars’ third score off of a turnover in the game.
- Tanner Mangum’s 16-yard pass to Matt Bushman marked 500 career completions for the senior quarterback
- Senior linebacker Rhett Sandlin’s interception was the first of his career
- Skyler Southam’s 47-yard field goal was the longest for the Cougars since Mitch Payne’s 48-yarder against UNLV in 2010
- Three more failed third-down conversions by McNeese St. made the Cowboys 0-for-8 through three quarters
Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson entered the game early in the fourth quarter for his first BYU appearance. Wilson ran for an 8-yard gain on his first play, but was called back due to a holding call. He went on to complete his first BYU pass to fellow freshman Gunner Romney before giving the ball back to McNeese on a fourth-down incompletion.
BYU’s Austin Kafentzis forced a fumble later in the fourth quarter that was recovered by Alden Tofa, putting the offense back on the 29-yard line. Senior running back Matt Hadley came in and ran for 25 quick yards before the Cougars let time expire on their double-digit win.
- Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson’s first passing attempt was completed to Gunner Romney for 12 yards
- The fumble forced by Austin Kafentzis and recovered by Alden Tofa marked the first time BYU has forced four turnovers since playing San Jose State on Oct. 28, 2017
- The Cougar defense stopped the Cowboys on two more third-down attempts to finish the night with zero conversions allowed on 10 attempts
- Akile Davis grabbed his second career reception as a Cougar, and first since 2015
The Cougars next game comes against No. 10 Washington on Sep. 29 at 5:30 p.m. PDT in Seattle. The matchup will be broadcast on Fox and can be followed live on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM.
No. 25 BYU returns home to host McNeese State on Saturday
PROVO, Utah – The No. 25 BYU football team returns to LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday to take on McNeese State at 4 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised on BYUtv and ESPN3.
Live radio coverage can be found on the BYU Sports Network two hours prior to kickoff with Greg Wrubell, which will be broadcast on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM, BYUCougars.com/LiveRadio, BYURadio.org and on the BYU Cougars app, BYU Radio app and KSL app.
Fans can get $10 off any ticket for this week's game against McNeese State by entering the promo code "TUESDAY" Purchase tickets HERE.
McNeese State (3-0) at No. 25 BYU (2-1)
Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018
Kickoff: 4 p.m. MDT
LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470)
MCNEESE. The Cowboys are one of the premier programs of the FCS and are currently ranked No. 9 in the STATS media poll and No. 10 in the AFCA coaches poll. The Cowboys have won 19 conference championships and have had 16 FCS playoff appearances. McNeese is celebrating its 75th year of football in 2018. The Cowboys have an overall record of 498-286-23 and have put together 13 consecutive winning seasons entering this year.
POWER 5 TO OPEN THE SEASON. BYU, Ohio State and UTSA are the only teams to open the season with their first three games against Power 5 opponents. The Cougars are one of just nine teams to win two games against Power 5 opponents in the first three games. BYU and Duke are the only two teams to win two Power 5 games on the road in the first three weeks of the season.
ALMA MATER COACHES. Both head coaches in the matchup are coaching at their respective alma mater. Lance Guidry played defensive back for the Cowboys from 1990-93, while Kalani Sitake was a fullback at BYU in 1994, 97-2000.
BYU AGAINST THE FCS. BYU has gone 11-0 in the last 30 years against programs from the Football Championship Subdivision, including a 2-0 mark under Kalani Sitake.
GRIMES NAMED ATHLON SPORTS COORDINATOR OF THE WEEK. BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes was named Athlon Sports Coordinator of the Week after the BYU's upset of the Badgers. Grimes put together an offensive game plan to match up with the physical Wisconsin front and outgained the Badgers at their own game, averaging 6.8 yards per rush to 4.7 on just 28 carries.
TAKITAKI NATIONAL PLAYER OF THE WEEK. Sione Takitaki was selected as College Sports Madness National Player of the Week. Takitaki led BYU with 13 tackles, two tackles for loss and one sack and was the defensive leader in BYU's win. Squally Canada also earned the Independent Offensive Player of the Week honor as he ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries against Wisconsin.
BOUNCE BACK LIKE LAVELL. Head coach Kalani Sitake and the Cougars are hoping to bounce back in 2018 similar to how LaVell Edwards and company did after his second season at the helm of the program. Edwards' second season (1973) was his only losing season of his 29-year career as the head coach. In season three of Edwards' tenure, the 1974 squad turned around from 5-6 the year before to 7-4-1, a WAC championship and a Fiesta Bowl appearance – the first bowl appearance in program history. BYU looks to follow in the hall of famers' footsteps.
The following quotes are from Monday's media availability.
Head coach Kalani Sitake
On what he learned from Wisconsin
"Obviously the coaching takes over and you have to look at the things we could have done better. There were a lot of mistakes but we were able to overcome them. We probably could have done better as a coaching staff and has a team. Defensively we wore down a little bit and they started dripping off tackles. It was a physical game. We were able to rotate guys and for the most part I thought they finished the game strong. We’re talking about our substitution packages to see how we can keep our guys fresh."
"For defense, we had a lot of young freshman in the game. Looking offensively, I saw them sustaining drives, getting more plays and running the clock. If we get chunk plays like we did in the run game and opportunities that we had out there, we just have to convert on them. I was really pleased with no turnovers in this game. The energy was great and we need to do that again this week."
On the team's focus during road games
"I was really happy and I think this game was different than the other two. We were more relaxed and that happened with the week of preparation. The guys worked really hard in the week but we weren’t really focused on the score as much as making sure that we were executing. We had the opportunity to trust each other. I think they were just really excited to play the game and felt comfortable with the preparation. I give a lot of credit to the coaches getting them ready for this game. I felt like we were prepared and focused on trying to have a good time and it worked out. That’s how we have to play. We have to play a little loose like we have nothing to lose. That’s the same approach for this week. We have a little bit of a different dynamic but I like the preparation and the game plans."
On what is making the difference for the team from last year
"You’d have to ask the guys. Those guys are doing everything the right way and I’m just proud of them. We’ve got great leaders that are taking over and good competition, so it’s hard to answer that question in one phrase. The culture of the team is taking form and the players believe. We talked about developing a strong belief in what we’re doing and how we play the game and we’re really pleased with the way the guys are doing it. It’s just stuff that they’ve learned in their homes so all we’re doing is continuing them on the path of what they’ve learned at home and applying it to the football field and being a student-athlete at BYU."
Defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi
On victory over Wisconsin
"It was a great weekend. There’s a lot of hype and then you get to come home and see your family and it’s back to the grind. You don’t want to say we’ve made it. It’s nice to show people what we’ve been doing in the offseason and all the changes we’ve had. It’s huge for our confidence of course. That’s one of the biggest things you can get from a big win like that is that you know can hang with the big boys. It’s huge for us but at the same time we have to keep rolling."
On difference in team from last year
"Everything has changed. The biggest thing is our mentality. The culture of the team is completely different and that’s probably the biggest thing for us. Guys are starting to take it upon themselves that we have to do more. As players we had to put it on us to get in extra work. We can’t be negative all the time. We can’t let things get us down. The biggest thing is how tough we can be. Everyone is tough, football is a tough sport, but it’s coming back from last season and translating that into your work ethic."
On facing McNeese State this week
"I used to hear a lot about trap games. You come in and you beat a big team like Wisconsin and then it’s a trap game if a play a smaller school next. We took the target off Wisconsin and now the target is on us. We believe that McNeese is going to be coming full speed after us. We have to be on top of our game this week."
Offensive lineman Austin Hoyt
On what it was like playing a physical defense
"t was awesome, it was hot. I’d come to the sideline and I couldn’t get enough water in me, but it was great. It was something that we were working up to the whole week. We were excited to go in and we knew that they’re a physical defense. We knew that we had to play physical so we went out and had a great game."
On validation from the wins against Arizona and Wisconsin
"I think it definitely does. Our hard work in our offseason during spring ball and summer workout outs is culminating. Even more importantly, our week-by-week work is really what validates us the most going into games. When we have a good week at practice, we feel confident and ready to go into that game. It’s been a long road, but I think it’s all just leading up to games like this when we can come together and play well."
On the offense being the heart and soul of the team
"We try to be. I think something that our coached tell us is they want the rest of the team to move forward and play physical. Coach Sitake had a meeting with us this last week with the offensive and defensive lines, saying the culture of toughness and physicality starts with us."
Defensive back Gavin Fowler
On being part of game-winning field goal
"Our coaches have a lot of trust in our field goal unit, but especially in Skyler and his leg strength. He’s worked really hard to be prepared for moments like that. When we knew we were getting towards scoring position we got ready and went out there and executed it the way we’ve done it in practice hundreds of times. It’s high pressure and a big moment for the game, but for the whole field goal unit it was just doing what we practice every day. Snapping is not an easy thing, so you just get used to handling what you can and getting it down in position for the kicker to make a play."
On freshman kicker Skyler Southam
"Before the first kick against Wisconsin I told him it was just like practice. He ended up missing it, and that happens, but I pulled him over on the sideline and told him not to worry about it. He came back and he was able to make a huge one for us, and it ended up being the difference. He’s a pretty mentally tough kid. A lot of guys would get discouraged and come over and hang their head, but he didn’t do that. He kept his head up and believed that he would make the next one. Having the belief of the whole unit behind him gives him the confidence to go out and forget about any mistakes and look forward to the next one."
On victory over Wisconsin
"It was really special. To go into a hostile environment like that against a really good team and to be able to compete and come out on top is always fun. We feel like we can compete with anybody. It’s really fun to see the program moving in a good direction. For me it’s not so much about personal achievements but seeing the whole team, the whole program, getting better and competing at the highest level."