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BYU football faces bigger challenge from Georgia Southern option attack than trip east

By Jared Lloyd - | Nov 20, 2021
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BYU junior defensive lineman Earl Tuioti-Mariner celebrates after his team recovered a fumble during the 66-49 Cougar win over Virginia at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)
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BYU defensive lineman Pepe Tanuvasa hits the quarterback during 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 defenders attempt to make a tackle during the 66-49 Cougar win over Virginia at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (Marcia Harris, Special to the Daily Herald)

BYU took its first cross-country flight of the 2021 season to prepare for Saturday’s game at Georgia Southern. How big of a deal is it for a football team to cross two time zones?

Not a whole lot, according to most of the Cougar players and coaches who were asked about it this week.

“It’s not like a big difference,” BYU tight end Dallin Holker said. “I think the biggest thing is just a longer plane ride. You have to do stuff to occupy yourself while you’re on the plane.”

BYU defensive back D’Angelo Mandell said guys find different ways to use that time.

“A lot of guys plays poker on the Delta screens,” Mandell said. “Other guys do homework or watch film. You just find things to pass the time.”

Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said he would do the little things to ensure it wouldn’t make a big difference.

“There’s a lot that goes into the game,” Sitake said on Monday. “We will be going a day earlier. As long as I’m head coach, I want the guys to acclimate to the time difference. A lot can be said about having two nights of sleep in a different time zone. We are flying Delta which will be huge for us. It will be comfortable. We will have a great place to stay. We are staying at the Marriott. Having these great partners will make it easier for us.”

The general feeling from BYU is that going east isn’t an excuse for poor play.

What will probably be a bigger challenge is facing Georgia Southern’s hybrid option attack.

“Their record doesn’t really show how dangerous they can be, at least on offense,” Cougar defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said. “They run a very similar style of offense to Coastal Carolina. When you are facing a team like that with an offense that has elements of option football, it’s always challenging. They have athletes and do a good job.”

BYU defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua said his guys have to stay focused on every play.

“They are a physical team but what is really isn’t what they do,” Leiataua said. “It’s how disciplined we stay on defense, reading our keys. On the defensive line, we need to make sure we read the right things, whether it is a power scheme or a pull. That’s what is going to be what makes the difference. Our offense is going to score a lot of points so we need to make sure we keep their scoring to a minimum. The keys will be being physical and being fundamentally sound.”

Cougar linebacker Ben Bywater said the players love that challenge.

“It’s good to be old-fashioned hard-nosed football and I’m excited for it,” Bywater said. “They are great athletes, so we will have to bring our A game.”

Sitake added that this Eagle squad had show its mettle. It could’ve given up on the season when a coaching change was made but they rallied instead.

“I see speed and athleticism,” Sitake said. “They are great athletes and they are well-coached. They are motivated. They have gone through some adversity and you can tell that they are close as teammates. They are coming off a win and have some momentum and belief. When you see what they do offensively, scheme is important. They can throw the ball. They utilize their personnel really well. Everyone is a threat to run the ball. The quarterback can run. Defensively, they are tough and can run fast.”

No. 14 BYU at Georgia Southern

TIME: 2 p.m. MT

TV: ESPN+

WHERE: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Georgia

THE WORD: This will be the first meeting between BYU and Georgian Southern. This is the Cougar’s only game against a team from the Sun Belt Conference in 2021, although the Cougars faced three teams from the league in 2020 (wins over Troy and Texas State and a loss at Coastal Carolina) … This is the fourth time BYU has played a game in the state of Georgia, having twice played in Atlanta against Georgia Tech (a 28-19 loss in 2002 and a 41-17 win in 2012) and once in Athens against Georgia (a 17-14 loss in 1982) … BYU is 16-4 under Kalani Sitake when playing as a ranked team. Georgia Southern has faced two ranked teams already this season, dropping contests to No. 20 Arkansas and No. 21 Coastal Carolina.

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