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BYU football notes: Win over Cincinnati featured turnover reversal for Cougars

By Jared Lloyd - | Oct 2, 2023

Harold Mitchell, Special to the Herald

BYU junior cornerback Jakob Robinson returns an interception for a touchdown during the Big 12 game against Cincinnati at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Sept. 30, 2023.

There are dozens of numbers that analysts and observers can look at to define why one team defeats another in a college football game.

One, however, often stands out as having the biggest impact.

That statistic is points off of turnovers.

A general rule of thumb is that if one team has 10 more points off of turnovers than its opponent, it will win.

BYU highlighted just how much those determine victory in its last two weeks.

At Kansas, the Cougars surrendered 21 points off of three turnovers while getting zero points off of turnovers themselves. Correspondingly, BYU lost to the Jayhawks, 38-27.

The Cougars flipped that script when they came home to play Cincinnati last Friday night.

This time it was BYU who forced two turnovers and turned them into 14 points (compared to none for the Bearcats), resulting in a 35-27 Cougar win.

Any questions?

The reality is that every program knows the importance of ball security, which was clearly something BYU emphasized after the loss.

“Our coaches are great with correcting mistakes,” BYU sophomore wide receiver Chase Roberts said after the game last week. “This week our focus was to take care of the ball and to have no stupid penalties. That’s what we did and we won the game. That’s what happens when you clean up mistakes and learn and grow.”

Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said the emphasis hasn’t changed but a game where the team stumbles adds to the urgency to improve.

“Our mindset is to always take care of the football,” Sitake said. “The football doesn’t belong to you (the player). It belongs to Cougar nation and belongs to your family and belongs everybody. It’s hard to win with this type of schedule in the Big 12, so you can’t shoot yourself in the foot. Those are the things that you have to really take care of.”

He knows that miscues will happen but the goal is to minimize them to be in a better position.

Sitake explained that he feels like BYU plays a physical brand of football and that will give them a chance, but victory comes down to the little things.

“We’ve just got to keep working to be a little bit cleaner,” Sitake said. “My job is to make sure that we’re executing way cleaner and that we’re being effective and with more efficient with our plays. I’m glad that we’re in a good position right now with our record and have an opportunity right now to go into the bye week where we can still improve.”

Packing the house

Anyone wanting a last-minute seat at LaVell Edwards Stadium to watch the Cougars and Bearcats had a tough time finding one.

BYU came back from its two-game road trip to play in front of an over-capacity crowd of 63,834 fans. It was LaVell Edwards Stadium’s largest attendance since the Cougars 26-23 overtime win over No. 22 Utah on Nov. 28, 2009.

Sitake gets No. 60

Not only was the BYU victory its first in the Big 12 Conference but it was also a milestone for Sitake as the Cougar head coach.

He earned his 60th-career victory at BYU in his eighth season. The legendary LaVell Edwards also earned his 60th-career win in his eighth season leading the Cougars in 1979.

Get in the end zone

The Cougars had both a newcomer and a veteran get to some nice scoring marks in the victory over Cincinnati.

Freshman running back LJ Martin’s four rushing touchdowns through his first five-career games are the most for a true freshman BYU running back since Luke Staley’s eight TDs through five games in 1999.

Meanwhile, Cougar senior quarterback Kedon Slovis recorded his 10th touchdown pass of the season in Friday’s win. This matches his 2022 season output at Pitt.

In addition, BYU junior defensive back Jakob Robinson scored his first career touchdown as a Cougar with his pick-6 in the first half.

Extra points

BYU lost the coin flip, dropping its record on the toss to 3-2 this season. The Cougars punted on their first drive of the game, while Cincinnati punted on its first drive in the second half … BYU flag bearers for the game were BYU president C. Shane Reese and BYU advancement vice president Keith Vorkink (alumni flags), linebacker Max Tooley (USA flag), defensive lineman Joshua Singh (Sione Veikoso 72 flag) and defensive lineman John Nelson (Big 12 flag) … Gametime weather was 72 degrees with clear skies … the announced attendance was 63,834.

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU players run onto the field before the Big 12 game against Cincinnati at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Friday, Sept. 30, 2023.


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