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‘Revenge Can Only Get You So Far’: BYU Preps For Rematch Against Arkansas

Sep 12, 2023, 12:27 PM

PROVO, Utah – When BYU lost to Arkansas last year, it was a low point for the 2022 squad. You wouldn’t typically think that suffering a loss to an SEC team where you score 35 points, but the defense for BYU that day made it clear that changes had to be made.

BYU gave up 644 yards of offense to the Razorbacks and 52 points. The Hogs could have tacked on another touchdown in the final seconds, but head coach Sam Pittman showed sportsmanship and called it off in the last seconds.

It was a tough day for BYU coach Kalani Sitake and his program.

The loss to Arkansas last year brought changes to BYU football

That game led to former defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki being demoted and, eventually, BYU parting ways with him. The same happened to Ed Lamb and the rest of the defensive staff except cornerback coach Jernaro Gilford.

Jay Hill has since stepped in as the defensive coordinator and early returns would suggest that this scheme is a lot more aggressive than the one Arkansas saw last year. Despite only producing one sack through two weeks, the Cougars have been more opportunistic in takeaways.

But with so many new coaches and nearly 60 players on the roster who didn’t experience last year’s game, is revenge even on the mind for BYU this week?

“Revenge can only get you so far,” said BYU coach Kalani Sitake. “I think the key for us is to keep things more simple than that. The fans probably weren’t happy about the game, obviously. But for our players, this is a whole separate deal. I think that’s the way we’ve got to keep it. Just focus on what’s the task at hand and that’s making sure we do our part to be ready, go out there, scout them out and watch them on film. They’re very impressive.”

Star Hog at QB: KJ Jefferson

Like BYU, Arkansas is a different team than the Cougars hosted in Provo a year ago. One returning piece, however, is Razorbacks star QB KJ Jefferson is back.

“Doesn’t hurt that they have a veteran quarterback returning that’s big and strong, that can run and throw,” Sitake said.

But the Hogs went with a new offensive coordinator in Dan Enos after moving from Kendal Briles, who ended up at TCU. That means some new looks that include under center, pistol, and the usual shotgun. The tempo might be slower as well.

Arkansas and BYU average 66 plays per game through the first two weeks. That would rank 82nd nationally.

Along with changes to the offense, the Hogs, as did BYU, overhauled their strength and conditioning staff to be a tougher football team.

KJ Jefferson said after Arkansas’ win over Kent State last Saturday that he wants to see the team “come out with an edge” out of the gates in the coming weeks. Sam Pittman believes his team senses the urgency for this non-conference tilt with BYU.

Kalani Sitake wants BYU to establish a physical identity

Sitake wants his team to improve from this experience to SEC Country. Despite being 2-0, there is much room for BYU to improve. The rushing game has stalled through two weeks. Is it the offensive line’s fault? The running backs?

Answers to those questions likely come in the first trip to SEC Country since 2019, in one final non-conference before kicking off their inaugural Big 12 season.

“When we get through this, make sure that we’re committed to being physical. Because I know they will be and then let’s see what happens,” said Sitake. “I really look forward to this game and trying to find ways that we can become a better program and a better team from this experience. I just want to make sure that we’re ready, that we do all of our jobs as a head coach and our assistants from Monday to Friday and even Saturday.”

BYU vs. Arkansas

Date: Saturday, September 16, 2023

Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Arkansas)

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m.

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) — Extended pregame coverage begins at Noon

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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‘Revenge Can Only Get You So Far’: BYU Preps For Rematch Against Arkansas