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No. 13 BYU visits tough Utah State

Sep 25, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA;  Brigham Young Cougars fullback Masen Wake (13) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Isaac Rex (83) in the first quarter against the South Florida Bulls at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2021; Provo, Utah, USA; Brigham Young Cougars fullback Masen Wake (13) celebrates his touchdown with tight end Isaac Rex (83) in the first quarter against the South Florida Bulls at LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Another strong start to the season has No. 13 Brigham Young trending in the right direction, and the Cougars will try to keep it going heading into Friday night’s in-state matchup with host Utah State in Logan, Utah.

BYU (4-0) has won its first four games in back-to-back seasons for the first time in program history.

Yet the Cougars weren’t totally thrilled with their 35-27 home victory over South Florida on Saturday night.

“The guys expect a lot from themselves, and they can be hard on themselves,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “Sometimes it’s OK that they have a high standard of expectations to perform.”

Utah State (3-1) has had a notable beginning to the season as well despite last week’s 27-3 home loss to Boise State. The Aggies started with three straight wins for the first time since 1978.

“We exceeded a lot of expectations early,” said Blake Anderson, who’s in his first season as coach at Utah State. “We just have to learn and we have to get better.”

BYU has won 16 of the past 20 matchups with Utah State as the teams play for possession of the Old Wagon Wheel. They didn’t meet last year.

BYU No. 1 quarterback Jaren Hall missed last week’s game with rib injuries, which allowed Baylor Romney to step in. Romney threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns, which included five connections with his brother, Gunner Romney, for 119 yards.

Sitake indicated that Hall was nearly available for the South Florida game.

Hall, who started in a 2019 victory against Utah State, figures to get the nod if he’s cleared for full participation.

Receiver Puka Nacua said the Cougars are comfortable regardless of the player who starts at quarterback. Still, the offense needs work.

“We still aren’t completely there,” Nacua said. “We’re not hitting on all cylinders, but we are making progress.”

BYU has passed for 11 touchdowns this season while giving up just two TDs through the air.

Utah State quarterback Logan Bonner and linebacker Justin Rice (who leads the Aggies with 40 tackles) are transfers from Arkansas State, where Anderson previously coached.

Utah State running back Calvin Tyler Jr. is averaging 103.5 rushing yards per game to lead the Mountain West.

The Cougars still might be adjusting to the season-ending injury suffered by linebacker Keenan Pili, the team’s leading tackler, in the third game of the season.

“We haven’t played a full game of our best football,” BYU defensive end Pepe Tanuvasa said. “So I’m really excited … to be able to show that, to our fans and to Utah State as well.”

BYU leads the series 49-37-3, but the Aggies are 19-18-2 in Logan.

Utah State is 5-62 all-time against Top 25 in such encounters. However, the Aggies have won four of their last 12 matchups against ranked teams, including a 2014 upset of then-No. 18 BYU in 2014.

That’s the lone time in 14 previous meetings that Utah State has topped a ranked BYU team.

For what it’s worth, Utah State has won the past three meetings played on Friday nights (2014, 2017, 2018).

–Field Level Media