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Silas Walker, Deseret News
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Cougars Hungry To Beat Utah, Wilson’s Recovery Going Well

Silas Walker, Deseret News

PROVO, Utah – For the BYU football program, the first priority heading into the 2019 season is to finally defeat in-state rival Utah.

During spring camp and throughout summer workouts, the Cougars have regularly broken their team huddle by shouting “Beat Utah!”

To BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, who appeared on the latest edition of Cougar Sports Saturday with hosts Mitch Harper and Matt Baiamonte, he’s proud of his players’ bold mindset.

It all stems from the painful awareness of eight straight losses to the Utes. Last year’s 35-27 loss in which the Cougars led for most of the game is an especially big motivating factor heading into 2019.

“I think our guys are anxious to get back on the field and do better than we did last year. It was really heartbreaking for a lot of the players,” said Sitake, who acknowledged that some of the Cougars may not have been completely prepared for the rivalry game last season.

Those players who were thrust into the game last year due to injuries have come back with a chip on their shoulder and are much more prepared already.

“I look at some of the individuals that played in that game and see some of things what they went through and I see nothing but great preparation. If you look at the guys who had great spring ball sessions with us, if you graded all of spring football, those individuals that played in the game had great springs and there’s a reason why, because those guys feel hungry to get better and get back at this game and get back at Utah,” said Sitake.

Sitake, who coached at Utah from 2005-14, continued to give the Utes plenty of credit but added that his team is itching to flip the switch on the rivalry.

“I know Utah has got a great team coming back, they have a lot of things going for them, they’re expected to win the Pac-12 but this team’s ready for them too,” said Sitake.

Wilson ‘Ahead Of Schedule’

One major question for the Cougars has been the health of sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson. Following an impressive end to his freshman season, Wilson underwent shoulder surgery in January. Since then, he’s been seen in an arm sling but has been working his way back to the field.

Sitake is confident that Wilson will be good to go for the start of fall camp, saying he’s “ahead of schedule,” in terms of his recovery.

“I think he’s the kind of guy that wants to get out there and work but we have to keep him kind of structured in the rehab. But I think when we get to fall camp he’ll be back at full strength,” said Sitake.

BYU’s season opener against Utah will kick off from LaVell Edwards Stadium on Aug. 29 at 8:15 p.m. and be broadcast on ESPN.

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