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Big Win At Arkansas Gives BYU Football Momentum Entering Big 12 Play

Sep 16, 2023, 11:25 PM

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – There’s something about Kalani Sitake BYU teams in a revenge spot.

Last year, BYU knocked off Baylor in a rematch. Five years ago as a three-touchdown underdog, they took down Wisconsin. Then on Saturday night, it was an upset victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks in SEC Country.

Final score, BYU 38, Arkansas 31.

 

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“Let’s try to get the first one next time,” Kalani Sitake said with a smile after the win over Arkansas.

RELATED: BYU Overcomes Early Adversity, Battles Back To Beat Arkansas Razorbacks

“We know there were times when things could have got really tight. The guys were able to keep me loose a little bit. But we knew that if we just keep plugging away and keep playing our ball, focusing on the fundamentals, the simple stuff first, then we can win those battles. Then eventually, that will turn into some success for us, we’ll put ourselves in a better position to have success happen.”

A game that lived up to the term “back-and-forth” every step of the way.

 

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Quarterback Kedon Slovis, who experienced his first road test as BYU’s starting quarterback, said he stayed calm throughout the wild nature of the game.

“Got down 14-0 early, but there was still so much time left. I think regardless of that, it’s a long game,” said Slovis. “There’s still like 12 minutes left on the clock in the first quarter. We knew we just needed to get something going in our favor. Got the first touchdown and things started rolling. Then we got the second body shot in the second half by that point we were down 11 and we came back more from that earlier. So I think guys stayed positive and I’m just really proud of the guys.”

BYU’s defense rose to the occasion when they needed to. It was another example of the impact that Jay Hill has made on the program in only nine months.

They still gave up 424 yards, but they created necessary havoc that they needed to swing the game in their favor.

Tyler Batty, Blake Mangelson, Isaiah Bagnah all created havoc up front. Defensive tackle Jackson Cravens had underrated contributions.

Eddie Heckard came up with a strip fumble on KJ Jefferson that showed why Jay Hill badly wanted the former FCS All-American to join him at BYU.

 

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There was a stout fourth down stop at midfield from AJ Vongphachanh. A toughness was on display from BYU’s defense that was nowhere to be found last year against the Hogs in Provo.

“It’s not about the stat sheet. I think everybody would look at the yards and be like, ‘Man; we gave up too many big plays and too many yards.’ But it’s grasping the momentum.

“You have to give credit to Arkansas they made a lot of big-time plays. But we had our fair share. The thing was just to get in the battle and stay in it and then stay in the fight. You know, the guys were able to focus on that and we we’re able to come ahead on the scoreboard. I don’t know if we play this again, how that’s going to shape up but we need to fix and find our way to be in a better position in the beginning.”

Now that win over Arkansas is in the rearview mirror, BYU can shift its focus to conference play. Yes, the waiting is over. It’s now time for Big 12 action.

“We’ve been waiting for this,” said Sitake on Big 12 play coming up next week. “So, we’ve been prepping for this and tonight was a good start. But again, we’re going on the road next week and we’ve got to be ready. We gotta have the same type of mindset. Everything is 0-0 right now. I think we can be happy about the win but there’s some things that we need to fix and some things that we need to correct and that’s what I’m focused on.”

 

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But in the heart of SEC Country, BYU can enjoy the win over Arkansas in a moment when few expected them to come away victorious.

That is the type of momentum they needed heading to Big 12 play.

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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Big Win At Arkansas Gives BYU Football Momentum Entering Big 12 Play