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Gridiron dreams: Cougar football wishes to continue recent success

By Jared Lloyd - | Dec 24, 2021
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BYU running back Tyler Allgeier runs up field during the Independence Bowl against UAB at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana, on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)
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BYU defenders make a tackle during the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU quarterback Jaren Hall poses for a photo with Cosmo and fans after the 35-31 Cougar win over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles on Saturday, Nov. 28, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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The BYU offensive line gets set for a play during the 34-17 Cougar win over Georgia Southern at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia, on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU players celebrate with the seniors after the 59-14 Cougar win over Idaho State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 6 ,2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU head coach Kalani Sitake leads the band in the fight song after the 59-14 Cougar win over Idaho State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 6 ,2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)

Two straight seasons of double-digit wins and being ranked has the BYU football team riding pretty high.

But no matter how good things are, the holiday season is a time to imagine things being even better.

That’s what BYU players, coaches and fans are dreaming of as their thoughts turn toward 2022 and beyond.

Here’s a look at some of the items that would certainly be on the Cougar football wishlist this year:

A suitable return on investment

As rumors about interest from other schools swirled, BYU supporters got a little nervous about what would end up happening with head coach Kalani Sitake.

The result was that Sitake signed a deal adding two extra years to the contract he had signed in August, locking him in until 2027 as well as investing more resources into the program in general.

While the Cougars are generally excited about continuity that will establish, now the challenge is having that turn into dividends on the field.

As is shown throughout the country, the more that teams invest in coaches, the higher their expectations are — and the quicker their disapproval manifests itself.

Sitake is an incredible representative of the university with his on-field successes and off-field passion for BYU but he knows the bottom line is to make sure his program meets — and exceeds — the standards that have been set.

No more rain games — or better ability to deal with moisture

BYU had two games in 2021 that were impacted by heavy rain — and lost both.

The Cougars had a tough time hanging onto the ball in the loss to Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium in October and had a costly fumble in the Independence Bowl loss to UAB.

It’s not easy to prepare for the impact of lots of moisture, particularly in a desert area like Provo. It impacts the flight of the ball in the pass game, the grip for ball carriers and even tackling leverage on defense.

Since it’s impossible to predict when rain will change a game, BYU has to find ways to be better prepared to perform when the skies open and drench everything in sight.

Success for those that move on

One of the best parts of Sitake’s program is how much emphasis is placed on the individual relationships.

From the outside, it can be tough to hear about players leaving early for the NFL, deciding their careers are over or even entering the transfer portal. The perspective is that those departures will make it harder for the team to have success in the future.

Sitake, however, has always emphasized that he wants each athlete to reach personal goals.

If a player feels like he needs a fresh start or could get more opportunities at another place, Sitake wants them to help them in every way he can.

He wants them to achieve pro football goals or to move on to be great in their careers and family lives.

So there is no doubt that he is wishing that guys like James Empey, Neil Pau’u and others have all the success in the world as they move on to the next things in their lives.

More Allgeier superhero moments

It is indisputable that the most memorable play for BYU in 2021 was when he chased down Arizona State linebacker Merlin Robertson and punched the ball out.

That play was replayed on social media, complete with superhero additions like lightning flashes and costumes.

The reality, however, was that Allgeier had dozens (or even hundreds) of plays during the season that may have not been as dramatic but where he showcased incredible effort.

Allgeier wasn’t ready to commit to his future plans after the bowl game ended but most expect him to see what he can do in the NFL. Either way, the hope will be to see him make more amazing plays for everyone to enjoy.

Enough health to see what the BYU defense is capable of

Few teams can maintain the same level of play when five of its top defensive players get hurt.

BYU fans saw that all too well with Keenan Ellis, Keenan Pili, Payton Wilgar, Lorenzo Fauatea and Chaz Ah You (among others) all either being out for the season or missing significant time.

It provided opportunities for other players to showcase their abilities but it also showed that it does make a difference. The Cougars weren’t as consistent as they needed to be when it came to tackling and coverage.

How good would BYU have been with fewer injuries to top players? No one will ever know in 2021.

But that doesn’t mean that the Cougars can’t dream of a season where their best players stay healthy so they can find out.

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