Intriguing storylines for BYU football’s first Big 12 game at Kansas
When change happens, there is naturally a lot of focus on firsts.
That’s been the case for BYU football in 2023 but this week’s game at Kansas is a significant milestone as its first Big 12 conference game and the Cougars want to make the most of it.
“The guys don’t need to be reminded but as coaches we were always reminding them this is the first Big 12 game ever in history of BYU and it will be the only first game,” BYU wide receivers coach Fesi Sitake said. “How are you going to make your mark? I think there’s an added level of energy, anticipation, excitement and enthusiasm. I’ve really appreciated watching these guys how they bring that into practice every day.”
But while that may be the most historic storyline of the week for the Cougars as they get ready to take on the Jayhawks, it’s certainly not the only one.
The most personal is likely that of BYU senior wide receiver Darius Lassiter, whose father, the late Kwamie Lassiter, and brother Kwamie Lassiter II both played for Kansas while his brother Kwinton Lassiter is currently a defensive back for the Jayhawks.
“This game means a lot to me,” Darius Lassiter said on Monday. “Me and my brother always dreamed of either playing together or playing against each other, and we get to do that this weekend in the matchup at Kansas. Having this opportunity in BYU’s first Big 12 game is a blessing.”
He grinned when talking about the chance to go up against his brother on the field.
“We talked about the possibility of going against each other the day I signed at BYU,” Darius Lassiter said. “If we do get that matchup this weekend, I know I will get the best out of him and he will get the best out of me on the field. Regardless of being brothers, we will both go out there and represent our teams, so we will both put in work.”
While Kwamie Lassiter, who played in the NFL but died in 2019, won’t be there in person to watch his sons, Darius Lassiter said he’s confident his father will be smiling.
“This game is something he always wanted to see happen, and we finally get that opportunity, so it will be a big day for the family,” Lassiter said. “No matter what the score is or the outcome of the game, our dad just wants us to go out there and play our hearts out with no regrets.”
While the history and family ties increase the significance of the game, the bottom line is that these are two undefeated teams squaring off who both want to start league play strong.
And they know it’s not going to be easy.
“Kansas is a really talented team,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “They have a lot of returning production. They seem like really great kids who are committed to their culture and coach. I think the world of their coach, so I know they will be ready to play.”
Cougar defensive coordinator Jay Hill may be facing the toughest challenge, since the Jayhawk offense is hard to stop.
“This is really the best offense in the Big 12 in the last two years statistically and it’s not close,” Hills said. “They throw it well. They run it well. They execute their schemes, and I love the quarterback and the running back.”
He said the key for his unit is discipline because if athletes get out of position, Kansas takes advantage.
“We’ve got to execute our assignments very well,” Hill said. “It’s a little bit like playing Air Force. Very assignment sound is what we’re going have to be. We’re going to have to execute what we call very well and we’ve got to make sure that we’re not giving anything up cheap down the field.”
While the Jayhawk offense gets a lot of attention, the Kansas defense isn’t bad either.
“Their corners are quick, big guys who play a lot of man coverage,” BYU sophomore wide receiver Chase Roberts said. “We’re excited. We’ve got to win our matchups and do what we do to go score the ball.”
The Cougars finally get to face this moment that has been on their minds for so long, so hopefully they’ll get to savor it a little bit.
“Nobody has been in the Big 12 before,” Sitake said. “I’ve been in the WAC and Mountain West as a player, and I’ve coached in the Mountain West, and I’ve coached in the Pac-12 and as an independent. We’ve been hoping for this since we were in independence. Now that we are here, it just happens to be Kansas in our opening moment. I admire the way they do things. It’s going to be a fun game.”
BYU at Kansas
TIME:1:30 p.m. MT
WHERE:David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, Lawrence, Kansas
THE WORD: This will be the second meeting between BYU and Kansas. The Cougars lost to the Jayhawks, 23-20, in the Aloha Bowl in 1992 … The Cougars are playing a league game for the first time since Nov. 27, 2010 (Utah). It will be the fifth time BYU plays a “first” conference game in its history. BYU won its most recent debut in a conference, beating No. 23 Colorado State 34-13 on Sept. 16, 1999, to open up its tenure in the Mountain West Conference. BYU began in the Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference (1922-37), later known as the RMAC, then the Mountain States/Skyline Conference (1938-61), was a founding member of the Western Athletic Conference (1961-98) and then the Mountain West (1999-2010) … Kansas is 3-0 for the second consecutive year. This is the first time the Jayhawks have reached that benchmark in back-to-back seasons since 1991-92.