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‘Finish Strong’: BYU Football Closed 2022 Season On High Note

Dec 18, 2022, 5:37 PM

BYU Football, Kalani Sitake, New Mexico Bowl Champions...

BYU football closed out the 2022 season with a last-second win over SMU in the New Mexico Bowl. (Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – When BYU football was 4-5, there was a lot of doubt in the program. From once being a preseason Top 25 team that climbed to No. 12 in the polls. BYU was suddenly staring at the possibility of not reaching the postseason.

That outcome would have been disastrous for a roster and coaching staff that returned so much experience. It would have put to rest the idea of momentum heading into the Big 12.

Instead of being home for the holidays, BYU finished strong.

They capped off the 2022 season with an 8-5 record and a New Mexico Bowl win over SMU with a fourth-string quarterback and a defensive staff comprised of analysts and graduate assistants.

BYU football kept battling to finish the 2022 season strong

It was quite the turnaround for a team that faced a lot of adversity this season. And when you’re an independent team, the question of, “what are you playing for” becomes a big talking point.

To stay focused on finishing the 2022 season strong, BYU created weekly goals to keep the players engaged.

BYU football Chief of Staff Jon Swift gave a glimpse of the four goals for BYU in the final month.

Win the Rivalries

Rivalry games are always a top priority in any season for BYU. After starting the year 4-5, BYU traveled to the blue turf as an underdog against a surging Boise State team and won 31-28.

BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua had the best game of his career with the Cougars, and Hinckley Ropati put together a breakout performance from the backfield.

Protect LaVell’s House

Since 2019, when Patti Edwards spoke to the team, “protecting Lavell’s house” has been a goal in Kalani Sitake’s program. They finished the home schedule by pulling away from Utah Tech in the second half.

BYU finished the home schedule in 2022 with a 4-2 record.

Leave a legacy

The only Pac-12 program BYU had never defeated was Stanford. BYU players bought into the motivation to get the program’s first over the Cardinal.

In the week leading up to the matchup on The Farm, players pointed to never beating Stanford as a reason to get up for the game, despite already clinching bowl eligibility.

BYU took down the Cardinal, 35-26. The only downside was that it resulted in an ankle injury to quarterback Jaren Hall.

Earn bowl eligibility and win

BYU played in the sixth bowl game out of seven seasons in Kalani Sitake’s time as head coach. The Cougars defeated SMU, 24-23, thanks to a last-second tackle on a two-point conversion attempt by SMU from BYU defensive back Jakob Robinson.

2022 BYU football fought until the end

BYU in 2022 underachieved. With a star signal-caller that played 12 of the 13 games, 10 wins was a reasonable goal, despite a tough schedule. But this group can hold its head high for the fact they competed until the end.

The fight shown in the final month of the regular season and in the New Mexico Bowl should be the lasting image of this year’s BYU football team.

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 moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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‘Finish Strong’: BYU Football Closed 2022 Season On High Note