BYU linebackers coach Ed Lamb felt like senior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi had one of his best games during the 27-20 Cougar win over UTSA at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday.
“I thought he played with his hair on fire,” Lamb said on the Coordinator’s Corner show on Monday. “Where he elevated his play in this last game that I have not seen him do before is his contact courage. He completely flew by one of the pulling offensive linemen and took down the running back. I thought he inspired the guys to hang in there and keep adjusting. He is a valuable, valuable leader for us.”
It’s often when things aren’t going well or when a team isn’t performing at the highest level that leaders are needed the most.
That is why this is a big time for the BYU team leaders both during Saturday’s closer-than-expected victory and also now preparing to head on the road for a big test at Houston on Friday night (7:30 p.m MT, ESPN).
“I think it is important as a leader to keep the guys level-headed, even when the emotions are high in a game,” Cougar senior safety Troy Warner said during Monday’s press conference. “It’s important to keep our heads in it, help them not to dwell on it. It’s about what they can do to be better. We dealt with some adversity during that game but I’m glad we were able to grind out the win.”
BYU junior offensive lineman Brady Christensen said the team knows adversity is going to come.
“The key to overcoming it is extreme effort and loving each other up,” Christensen said. “With our guys, I always tell them to forget about the last play or the last series and let’s go play our hardest.”
Those concepts are important between games as well as the Cougars look to eliminate the mistakes that hurt them against the Roadrunners.
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake explained that this is a time where joint efforts by players and coaches should make a big difference for the squad.
“There are a lot things that go one behind the scenes with the players,” Sitake said. “I think the key is for them to collaborate with the coaches and also communicate with each other. We are going to show the things we think can improve on and the players can do the same. I like the players being involved in that. From what we saw from last week, the things are fixable but it will take focus and guys having better concentration.”
Great leaders don’t always make the boisterous, Hollywood-style speech in front of everyone. Sometimes they go about their efforts in quieter, less visible ways.
“I’ve never been a super-vocal guy,” Cougar junior wide receiver Gunner Romney said. “I’m not really the type of person to yell and get people fired up in that way. I’m more the type to take people aside individually and say, ‘hey, we need to see this out of you’ or to bring the energy in practice to make sure everyone feels the intensity and urgency. You just need to express what needs to get done and that can happen in small conversations.”
Christensen said he feels like it is easier for BYU to be resilient this year because it has a lot of experienced players.
“I remember some of the rough games last year that we lost and how when it wasn’t going well it was down on the sidelines,” Christensen said. “It was hard to recover from that. I feel like this year we are better at keeping it going and keeping loving each other up.”
Four straight wins
BYU has started the 2020 season 4-0, which is the first 4-0 start since the 2014 season. The Cougars have not started 5-0 since the 2008 season when they won their first six games of the year.
This is also the best start under head coach Kalani Sitake. The previous best was in 2018 when BYU started 3-1.
Hitting the century mark
BYU had a 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver for the second time this season.
Wide receiver Dax Milne had seven catches for 102 receiving yards against the Roadrunners, while Tyler Allgeier ended up with 116 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown.
For the first time in 2020, BYU lost the coin toss on Saturday. UTSA elected to defer to the second half. The Cougars drove down the field but fumbled the ball on the first possession of the game ... BYU’s captain for the game was offensive lineman Brady Christensen ... The Cougar flagbearers were defensive lineman Alden Tofa (USA flag), linebacker Keenan Pili (State of Utah flag) and long snapper Britton Hogan (LS) and offensive lineman Brayden Keim (team flags).