No. 9 Baylor and No. 21 BYU are once again getting a head start on their future Big 12 rivalry when they square off Saturday night at Provo, Utah.
The Cougars will be joining the Big 12 in 2023, but their immediate order of business is trying to avenge last season’s 38-24 road loss to Baylor.
“We circle every single game of the season,” BYU defensive tackle Lorenzo Fauatea said. “Everybody looks forward to every game we play. But you could say that the Baylor game is one that players are looking forward to following the game last year.”
The Bears totaled 534 yards in that contest and dominated in the trenches while rushing for 303 yards.
But Baylor (1-0) expects the task of winning to be much tougher when it tussles with BYU (1-0) in LaVell Edwards Stadium at 4,649-feet elevation.
“Just every obstacle that is hard,” Bears coach Dave Aranda said of his program’s pre-travel research. “They are playing at a high level, so we are excited for that. I think it’s an opportunity for us again to show what we are about.”
Baylor, which won a school-record 12 games last season, wasn’t pressed in its opener as it rolled to a 69-10 home victory over FCS Albany.
Quarterback Blake Shapen made his third career start and was 17-for-20 passing for 214 yards and two touchdowns before calling it a day early in the third quarter.
“I think it was just a glimpse of what you’ll see in the future,” Shapen said. “I feel like it was good for some of the guys, and especially me, to get out there and be able to play again and take some shots down the field, stuff that you’ll definitely see in the future. We just have to keep working and get better at it.”
The Cougars also feature a solid quarterback in Jaren Hall, who completed 25 of 32 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns as BYU recorded a 50-21 opening win on the road against South Florida.
Hall passed for 20 touchdowns and five interceptions last year in his first season as a starter, topping 300 yards four times, including in the loss against Baylor when he was 22 of 31 for 342 yards and one touchdown.
“Great play-action pass thrower,” Aranda said. “I think he can move in the pocket and create things if things aren’t there. He is going to be one of the better quarterbacks we play all year. The film is impressive in terms of the decisions he makes, the throws that he is able to complete, and really the throws that he doesn’t take. He doesn’t put the team at risk.
“He was good last year. He’s better now.”
One blow for Hall is that he reportedly won’t have the services of top receivers Puka Nacua (ankle) and Gunner Romney (undisclosed). Nacua was injured against South Florida after rushing for two touchdowns — including a 75-yarder on the first play from scrimmage — while Romney missed the game.
Cougars coach Kalani Sitake acknowledges that his squad struggled with Baylor’s toughness last season. He’s hoping to see a different level of intensity from his team Saturday.
“We’re really excited about the opportunity to play against Baylor,” Sitake said. “We’re familiar with them, they are a really good team, obviously ranked and they’re the standard for the Big 12.
“They’re the conference champs and we get to have them here in Provo, so we’re really excited for that game and to see how we match up with them from the game last year to now. I know our guys are really excited about this opportunity.”
–Field Level Media