BYU quarterback Jaren Hall looks to hand off the ball against Arizona during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)
BYU quarterback Jaren Hall’s not one to dwell on the past.
So this particular stat really doesn’t register: The Cougars have lost nine straight to rival Utah.
Instead, he’s focused only on the now as the Cougars host the 21st-ranked Utes on Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
“We can’t change the outcome of the past, but we can prepare our best,” Hall said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”
The Cougars (1-0) haven’t knocked off the Utes (1-0) since a 26-23 overtime win in 2009. They didn’t play last season.
Now for some intrigue: The Utes list their all-time series record against BYU as 62-34-4. The Cougars have the numbers as 59-31-4. The reason for the six-game discrepancy has to do with the fact that BYU officially began playing intercollegiate football in 1922, according to the school’s history. There were six scrimmages or games between the Utes and BYU Academy, a mixture of high school and college athletes, from 1896-1898. The teams split those games, which were counted in the totals by Utah.
More series knowledge: Neither team has ever won 10 straight against the other.
“Nothing lasts forever,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham, a former all-conference linebacker at BYU (1978-81) who’s 11-3 against the Cougars since taking over. “We’re just approaching it like we do every year and pretty much every game. The preparation will be the key. It’s not the emotional part of it, or how many wins in a row, or any of that stuff. You’ve got to prepare the right way.”
Both teams got off on the right foot in their season openers, with the Utes beating Weber State 40-17 and the Cougars dispatching Arizona 24-16 in Las Vegas.
“We’ve moved on and we will find ways to learn from the mistakes we made and improve,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “We are looking forward to facing a ranked team.”
The Utes and Cougars know each other well given their schools are only about 45 miles apart. There are around 60 players on the BYU roster listed from Utah. The Utes have about 30 who hail from the state.
“A lot of times you’re playing against somebody you’ve grown up around or a local team you’ve been around a lot,” BYU offensive lineman James Empey said. “Once the ball snaps, it’s a football game and you’re going to work and just trying to get your work done the best you can. I’m super excited about this week and ready to go.”
Last week was the Utah debut of quarterback Charlie Brewer, who played in 45 games at Baylor before transferring. He went 19 of 27 for 233 yards. He threw two TD passes and an interception.
“He did a good job managing the game,” Whittingham said. “I thought he was good with his decisions, got the ball out quick, did a nice job extending the play at times. It was a good start.”
Hall also turned in a strong showing as he stepped in for Zach Wilson, the No. 2 overall pick by the New York Jets in the 2021 NFL draft. Hall threw for 198 yards and two scores.
“We’ve got to start faster, you know, get points on the board,” Hall said. “We have to be comfortable and have more energy right from the get-go, get after it, trust the game plan and really just making plays.”
Lately, this rivalry game seems to be tight until the end, with 16 of the last 20 decided by one score.
“You prepare hard, you play hard,” Sitake said. “In the most simplistic terms, that’s what you do. If you don’t prepare on the field, in the film room, the weight room, everything that comes with it — getting your rest, hydration … there’s a ton of different aspects to preparation. You’ve got to pay attention to all of them, and then on game day you’ve got to play hard.”
After playing for Hall of Fame coach LaVell Edwards, Whittingham later became a coach at BYU with him. Sitake also was a fullback under Edwards.
Naturally, there’s plenty of respect.
“I want to beat Utah,” Sitake said. “But after the game, I wish them success and I hope they do well.”
The Cougars face five teams from the Pac-12 this season. They also will play Arizona State (Sept. 18), at Washington State (Oct. 23) and at USC (Nov. 27).