LaVell Edwards Stadium has provided BYU with one of the nation’s top home-field advantages over the past few seasons, but an even bigger buzz is expected in the crowd this weekend.
Starting the year with two impressive road wins and boasting the program’s highest ranking in more than a dozen years can create that kind of excitement.
In their highly anticipated home opener, the seventh-ranked Cougars look to extend their winning streak at LaVell Edwards Stadium to 19 when they meet Florida State on Saturday night.
BYU opened this season with one of the biggest wins in school history, 14-13 over then-No. 3 Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. The victory vaulted the Cougars into the national spotlight and quarterback Max Hall emerged as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
Hall and the Cougars then managed to avoid a letdown last week.
After throwing for 329 yards against the Sooners, Hall completed 24 of 32 passes for 309 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in last Saturday’s 54-3 win over Tulane at the Superdome. The Cougars moved up two spots in the latest AP poll, their highest ranking since being fifth in the final poll of the 1996 season.
BYU easily marched down the field last Saturday behind Hall, rolling up 527 yards and avoiding to punt.
“It shows we are going to come out every week hungry to play and eager to play because we love the game and love to win,” said Hall, named the Mountain West offensive player of the week for the second time in a row.
Florida State coach Bobby Bowden is plenty worried about his secondary being able to keep up with Hall and his array of receivers. The Seminoles have struggled to stop the pass, yielding 599 yards in two games.
“Their quarterback can throw the heck out of the ball,” Bowden said. “He can thread it.”
Bowden is also concerned after his team’s close call last weekend.
Florida State (1-1) needed two scores in the final 35 seconds Saturday night to avoid arguably one of the most embarrassing upsets in school history.
Trailing 9-7 to Jacksonville (Ala.) State, Ty Jones’ 1-yard touchdown run with 35 seconds left put the Seminoles ahead and Kevin McNeil’s 33-yard fumble return for a score 21 seconds later sealed the 19-9 victory. Florida State hadn’t lost to a school in the Football Championship Subdivision since falling 9-0 to William & Mary in 1969.
“We have to do some soul searching,” said junior quarterback Christian Ponder, who threw for a career-high 324 yards, completing 22 of 35 passes without a touchdown or interception. “If we want to have a successful season we’ve got to change a lot of things.”
Coming out with another lackluster effort this week likely won’t get the job done, especially at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The Cougars have won a school-record 18 straight at home since a 41-34 overtime loss to Utah on Nov. 19, 2005. They’ve taken seven in a row over non-conference opponents since falling 20-3 to then-No. 22 Boston College on Sept. 3, 2005.
The six games in Provo, Utah, were rarely close last season, with BYU winning by an average of 30.2 points. The defense keyed several of those wins, limiting opponents to 12 points or less four times, and has looked strong early this year.
BYU held high-powered Oklahoma to 265 yards while knocking Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford out in the process and then gave up 162 last Saturday.
“Our defense may not be as quick as some of the other defenses, but we play physical and we will hit you,” defensive end Jan Jorgensen said.
BYU is 0-2 against Florida State. The schools haven’t met since the then-No. 2 Seminoles’ 29-3 win in 2000 at Jacksonville, Fla.