Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct 08, 2022

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 34 of 55 OCT. 8, 2022 35 GAME PREVIEW: BYU BY TYLER HORKA O nly college football can bring two p re s t i g i o u s u n ive rs i - ties founded on separate reli- gious principles together for a 60-minute athletic competition in Las Vegas of all places. Sin City. The Oct. 8 meeting of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, disseminators of Catholicism, and the Brigham Young University Cougars, propagators of Mormonism, is less about the histories and foundations of each institution and the setting where they will play, though, than it is about the players who will par- ticipate in the game and the coaches who will oversee them doing so. Notre Dame's season quickly turned from a celebratory parade of new head coach Marcus Freeman and his roster full of experienced fourth-, fifth- and even sixth-year veterans to a survival act akin to the ones seen on the Dis- covery Channel. Like the contestants on those shows or a weekender on the Vegas strip simply trying to make it to the next day, Notre Dame is attempting to survive week by week in Freeman's first season. The Irish were dealt a heavy blow in a Week 2 loss to unranked Marshall. The defeat dropped Freeman to 0-3, making him the only coach in Notre Dame's sto- ried history to have that mark. He was never asked about that, and he never went out of his way to address it. But he harped on a few other elephants in the room after the mood ticked up a tad with a 24-17 win over Cal in Week 3. "I think I've knocked out all of the firsts," Freeman said. "First bowl game, first loss in a bowl game. First loss on the road. First loss at home. We've knocked out all those firsts in the negative aspect." BYU head coach Kalani Sitake got them out of the way a long time ago. The Cougars' head coach since 2016, Sitake went 9-4 in his first season at the helm. That would be a very fine re- cord for the Irish from this point for- ward considering the shaky start. It would mean they can only lose two more games, though, and BYU has a lot to say about one of those two teams that would represent Notre Dame defeats. Rising to No. 12 in the country after a thrilling 26-20 overtime victory over No. 9 Baylor in Week 2, the Cougars had the proverbial letdown loss in a 41-20 thrashing at No. 25 Oregon one week later. "I saw it as a missed opportunity," Sitake said. "I wish we would have played better." Wins over ranked teams in back-to- back weeks would have had the narra- tive going into the Shamrock Series game in Las Vegas written entirely differently. BYU would be the heavy favorite against a Notre Dame team struggling to find an offensive identity with backup quarter- back Drew Pyne and his cast of nowhere to be found wide receivers around him. Instead, BYU might be beatable enough for the Irish to secure what very well could be the first ranked victory of Free- man's career by the time the two meet up. So, throw all the Sin City propaganda out the window. Sure, it's an awesome stage for college football's gold standard in history and tradition. But the football field inside the venue is the same size as the ones all 131 FBS teams play on around the country. This is a game about Freeman, his players and the impressive program that went 21-4 from 2020 to 2021 that the Irish are trying to beat. BREAKING DOWN BYU At first it seemed BYU wouldn't miss a beat without Tyler Allgeier, who ran 276 times for 1,601 yards and 23 touchdowns a season ago. Cal graduate transfer Chris- topher Brooks ran 13 times for 135 yards and 1 score in his BYU debut against South Florida — an Allgeier-esque stat line. But then Brooks ran 23 times for 59 yards and 1 touchdown in the games against Baylor and Oregon. Allgeier only ran for less than 60 yards in a single game twice last season. One of those games was a loss to Baylor when he car- ried 15 times for 33 yards. Facts & Figures BYU VS. NOTRE DAME Date: Oct. 8, 2022 Site: Allegiant Stadium (Las Vegas) Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET Television: NBC Streaming: Peacock Radio: This game can be heard on Notre Dame IMG affiliates. Series Facts: This is the seventh time the two programs have met. Notre Dame holds a 4-2 overall record in the all-time series, and the Fighting Irish won the last game 23-13 in South Bend on Nov. 23, 2013. Head coaches: BYU — Kalani Sitake (51-30, seventh season); Notre Dame — Marcus Free- man (2-3, first season). Noting BYU: The Cougars are 20-6 against ranked teams in the Sitake era … Through Week 3, the Cougars had appeared in 12 consecutive Associated Press polls; Notre Dame fell out of the polls after an 80-week stretch of consecu- tive rankings, which was the fourth-longest streak in the country at the time … This is BYU's final year as an independent football program; the Cougars are set to join the Big 12 in 2023 … There have been 28 NFL Draft picks out of BYU during Sitake's tenure … Sitake played fullback at BYU in 1994 and from 1997-2000 … There are 15 former BYU football players on the coaching and athletic administration staff … There are upward of 40 current BYU players of Polynesian descent; the Polynesian Islands have become a hotbed for BYU recruit- ing through the years. Redshirt junior quarterback Jaren Hall did not throw for fewer than 261 yards in any of the Cougars' first three games. PHOTO BY RYAN CAMPBELL/COURTESY BYU CATHOLICS VS. MORMONS Two religious institutions go head-to-head in a peculiar place, but the game is about much more than each school's background

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