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BYU football players and coaches haven’t forgotten South Florida humiliation of 2019

By Jared Lloyd - | Sep 25, 2021
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BYU running back Lopini Katoa runs the ball during the 27-23 USF win over the Cougars in Tampa on Oct. 12, 2019.

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BYU defenders attempt to tackle USF running back Jordan Cronkrite during the 27-23 USF win over the Cougars in Tampa on Oct. 12, 2019.

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BYU defenders attempt to tackle USF running back Jordan Cronkrite during the 27-23 USF win over the Cougars in Tampa on Oct. 12, 2019.

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BYU wide receiver Talon Shumway gets upended during the 27-23 USF win over the Cougars in Tampa on Oct. 12, 2019.

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BYU quarterback Baylor Romney runs the ball during the 27-23 USF win over the Cougars in Tampa on Oct. 12, 2019.

Two years can be an eternity for college student-athletes.

That’s at least four semesters of classes plus all the games, the camps and the workouts — and that’s not even taking into account the disruption of the recent worldwide pandemic.

With all of those other things having gone on, no college football team in 2021 is going to really think too much about a game that took place in 2019, right?

Well, BYU players and coaches don’t see it that way.

The Cougars are preparing to host South Florida at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday night and they definitely recall what happened last time when they took on the Bulls.

“It comes into play a lot,” BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said earlier in the week. “We have a good number of our starters, guys we’re counting on, who played in that game. James Empey, Clark Barrington, Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney, Neil Pau’u and Gunnar Romney and Lopini Katoa. A lot of guys played in that game and remember how awful that felt. You got to respect the game. You got to respect every opponent and these guys have our attention.”

The 2019 game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa is probably one many Cougar fans don’t want to remember, a disappointing 27-23 loss that saw BYU surrender a big lead and fail to score twice inside the red zone in the final minutes.

That frustration is still very real to the Cougars that were there and saw victory slip away.

“I think there is a lot of motivation just because of the loss they handed us down there in Florida,” Cougar wide receiver Gunner Romney said. “We don’t want that to happen again. This is a completely new team but the losses where you expect to win and it doesn’t go your way, those ones hurt. We have a lot of motivation to give it back to those guys.”

BYU cornerback D’Angelo Mandell said that the Cougars have improved in numerous ways since that defeat.

“It’s definitely about the little things,” Mandell said. “We have to do the simple things on defense because doing the small things will end up being more rewarding in the long run.”

It will certainly be a different situation for BYU sophomore quarterback Jaren Hall, who made his first start against USF. Now this is Hall’s team and he has led the Cougars to three straight solid wins.

Roderick said he doesn’t think there is much comparison between what Hall did two years ago and what will happen on Saturday night.

“They have a different defense, so there isn’t much to take there,” Roderick said. “The biggest thing is the game experience. The more you play, the more it adds up and the game slows down. That’s true at every position but especially at QB.”

The BYU defense is determined to not let the Bulls have the same success on the ground as they did in the last meeting.

“It was a frustrating game,” Cougar linebacker Max Tooley said. “They ran the ball down our throats. We’ve got our memories and a lot of the guys who played in that game are still here. I think we don’t want to come up flat and have that happen again.”

Roderick said the BYU offense has to be ready for another challenging defensive approach.

“They play a very unique scheme,” Roderick said. “It has some elements of what Rocky Long did at San Diego State. It’s a unique defense for sure and they have a lot of team speed. The last time we played these guys they made us look really bad. I know it was it was a different, different program at the time but we’ve got to be ready. It’s a team that can make you look bad if you’re not ready to play.”

The bottom line is that the 2021 BYU team has to be ready to take on the 2021 South Florida team on Saturday.

“USF is well-coached,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said. “He (Scott) has got tons of experience as a co-offensive coordinator and assistant at Clemson. He’s been a big part of the culture that they built there and he is trying to do the same thing at USF. We’ve seen the film and they have a lot of athleticism, a lot of speed. We’re focusing our mindsets on getting that game and making sure we’re performing our best this weekend.”

No. 15/16 BYU vs. South Florida

TIME: 8:15 p.m. MT

TV: ESPN2

WHERE: LaVell Edwards Stadium

THE WORD: This will be the second meeting between BYU and South Florida with the Bulls winning the first game, 27-23, in Tampa in 2019 … This is the only time BYU will play an opponent from the American Athletic Conference this season. The Cougars won their last meeting against an AAC team, beating UCF,49-23, in the 2020 Boca Raton Bowl … BYU has entered the top 15 polls for the first time this season and for the second consecutive year, coming in at No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25. BYU was last ranked in the top 15 in the final polls last season when the Cougars finished No. 11 in both national rankings with an 11-1 record. The Cougars are 12-2 under

Kalani Sitake when ranked. USF is looking to get its first win over a ranked opponent since 2016.

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