Ari Davis | Posted: 22 Oct 2018 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

BYU football returns to take on Northern Illinois Saturday afternoon

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PROVO, Utah – BYU football hosts Northern Illinois after a bye week at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 27 at 1:30 p.m. MDT. The game will be televised on ESPNU. 

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,, and on the BYU Cougars app, BYU Radio app and KSL app.  

BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage with Countdown to Kickoff starting 12:30 p.m. MDT. Postgame coverage runs for half an hour or more after the game depending on the timing of the game.

Tickets are available at

BYU (4-3) vs. Northern Illinois (4-3)
Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. MDT
Provo, Utah
LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470)

BYU Game Notes
NIU Game Notes

THE SERIES. BYU and Northern Illinois are playing the first of a new home-and-home series. The two schools have never met before in football. The Cougars are scheduled to make a return trip to Huskie Stadium in DeKalb on October 24, 2020. 

PINK GAME. With October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Cougars will be adding some pink to their uniforms with pink athletic tape, sweatbands, socks and other accessories to show support.

MACtion. NIU plays its conference football as a member of the Mid-American Conference (MAC). The Huskies have appeared in the MAC championship game in six consecutive seasons from 2010 to 2015, winning the league title outright in 2011, 2012 and 2014. They have the most appearances in the MAC championship game with seven. Northern Illinois also broke into the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) in 2012. The Huskies went 11-1 in the regular season before beating Kent State in the MAC championship game, earning a spot in the Orange Bowl. NIU fell to No. 13 Florida State 31-10 but finished the season ranked No. 22 in the AP poll. 

THE HUSKIE PROGRAM. Northern Illinois is one of the MAC's premier teams, having made a bowl game in 11 of the past 15 seasons, including a string of eight consecutive games from 2008 to 2015. The Huskies have won 12 conference titles and played in 12 total bowl games.

BYE WEEKS FOR EVERYONE. BYU is facing the Huskies after both teams are coming off of bye weeks. BYU is 9-4 coming off of a bye week over the past 10 seasons, including a few seasons with multiple byes. The Cougars have split games (1-1) following byes with Coach Sitake. BYU will face three opponents that have bye weeks prior to the game against the Cougars this year. Utah State had a bye week, NIU has had a bye week and New Mexico State will also have a bye week. 

YOUNG GUNS. BYU has played 25 freshmen this season, including 15 true freshmen. 10 freshmen have started games for the Cougars, including five true freshmen. In the last game against Hawai'i, BYU started seven freshmen, including six on offense. Only Minnesota has started more freshmen on offense in a game (7). Freshmen have accounted for just over half of BYU's total scoring this year (89 of 176 total points – 50.6 percent). 

The following quotes are from Monday's media availability. 

Head coach Kalani Sitake
On the bye week
“It was good. We had a good mix of extra prep time for Northern Illinois and a break to give the guys their legs back, knowing that’s the only break they are going to have all season. We hit the weight room and did a lot of things to get them caught up on academics. I think the bye week came at the right time, midseason, to get some guys healthy. We’re looking forward to the game on Saturday against a really well-coached Northern Illinois team."

On facing Northern Illinois this week
“They’ve had some really good games. They play really tough defense. They have an All-American defensive end that is really active. But, I think they’re whole defense is really tough. Offensively, they run the ball and they block punts on special teams. They’re a really effective team and I know their head coach, and he gets them to play tough. They do well so I’m looking forward to that matchup."

On Zach Wilson facing tougher NIU defense
"I think he’ll be fine. We’ve shown him a lot of the stuff during spring ball and fall camp. We put him live in so many situations against our defense so I think he’ll be ready for it. I think he was ready for it last time against Hawai’i. His progress has gone really well from what we’ve seen from when he first got here in January to this point, so we’re excited to see him take the field again. I know the offense has made a lot of improvement in the last couple weeks so we’re really excited to see them play against a staunch defense like Northern Illinois. It’s going to be a of fun to see what happens."

On freshmen starters
"You have a chance to play every time you compete. It’s motivating knowing that if you do well during the week, even if you don’t start, your reps might go up during the game. The coaches trust the young men on the field, whether it’s offense, defense or special teams. Having a coaching staff that is willing to make those moves and get guys in the game that deserve it is a motivating factor for young men. Getting into the game as a freshman is a huge motivator for them. As a by-product we get a lot of depth. There is quality that keeps improving. A mixture of all these things and knowing that freshmen have four games to play with the redshirt rule, all that plays into us being able to make those moves."

Defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi
On his role in the defense
My role is to do whatever is needed – not just as a defensive player, but as a football player in general. That could mean playing in the middle, as an outside backer or on the defensive line. I’ll be anywhere they need me to play and whatever is best for the team.  At the beginning of the season, it was a bit nerve wracking. Your whole life, you’ve trained for one position and then they change it. But when it comes down to it, it’s all still football. I’m just happy for the opportunity to play.

On a spark in the defense in the Hawai’i game
"There definitely was a difference in our defense and that’s the way it should be. In the previous weeks, we were trying to contain them instead of trying to stop them. For the Hawai’i game we changed the mindset. It was then us giving the blows and them having to fix it."  

On what they have learned about Northern Illinois
"We did have an extra week to study film so we do know a little bit more. At the same time, we want to approach this weekend with the same mindset as other games. They’re a hard-nosed running football team. If you look at their numbers, they’re going to run the ball most of the time. A lot of the teams we’ve played in last couple weeks have been more pass heavy with spread offenses. NIU is really good with sticking to the run and bulldozing through. We have to realize that this is a brand new opponent and change our mindset to address what we need to do about it."

Offensive lineman Austin Hoyt
On the bye week
“I feel a huge difference with how my body feels. By this time of the season your legs start to feel a little heavy, banged up and tired. I think the coaches did a great job of giving us a couple days to rest and get our legs back. The week of practice leading up to a game after a bye week is a better one because our bodies are feeling a lot better.”

On moving the line of scrimmage and opening up holes in the last game
“Coach Grimes brought up pad level in our week of preparation to every position group, everyone playing with lower pad level. I think that was one of the main differences in that game, everyone was playing lower causing them to play tougher and more physical as the game went on.”

On every position being up for grabs
“I think it has caused guys to really work hard during practice and I’ve noticed guys focusing on the small details and I think that is a big difference maker in who plays more. I think having that mentality that your position is never solidified and you always have to work for it has caused us to practice really hard.”

On how the offensive group has progressed
“I think they’ve all done great. Brady Christensen had a great start at the beginning of the season and he’s been great. As a freshman playing left tackle, he’s doing something no other freshman in the country is doing. James Empey is doing a great job taking control of the offense. He lets us know where we are tuning our protection and making sure we have the right calls. I think Keanu Saleapaga has done an amazing job, coming out never playing offensive line, just his physicality and his explosiveness, he has done a great job.”

Wide receiver Aleva Hifo
On Zach as a natural leader
"He’s definitely confident in what he does. It shows in how he plays. A lot of people don’t realize that the last real game Zach played was in high school. For him to go from that to a stadium and environment like ours in the middle of the season is huge. He deserves a lot of credit."

On increasing yards after catch
"A lot of it comes from the individual player’s confidence. That’s something I was happy to see in the wide receiver group. It something we struggled with earlier in the season and also last year. We’ve come a long way as receivers and we’re just going to keep playing confidently. We need to trust our quarterback and the scheme. That’s something we’ve been doing and it helps us execute in the game."

On having more space in the game
Obviously you’re more comfortable when someone isn’t right up in your space. You have more space to work with and more time to react. That’s something we have to improve. We’re comfortable playing in zone, but we need to be more comfortable in both areas."

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