MORGANTOWN — As his team prepares for its first-ever trip to Morgantown, BYU football coach Kalani Sitake is excited to experience a WVU gameday firsthand.
“I’m looking forward to the cool traditions that they have,” Sitake said during a Zoom press conference on Monday. “They have a passionate fanbase that loves their team. I know from talking to a lot of different people that have been out there that it’s a tough place to play.”
During their first year in the Big 12, the Cougars have already experienced road games at Kansas, TCU and Texas.
“I like fans that care about their team and have a lot of passion for it,” Sitake said. “I think there are a lot of really cool things about college football and I’m glad we get to go be in that environment and compete against West Virginia.”
Sitake said he is looking forward to one WVU tradition in particular.
“I’m looking forward to hearing them all sing ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads,’” he said, unaware that would only happen if his Cougars lose to the Mountaineers. “That’s a cool song.”
BYU is faring the best out of the four Big 12 newcomers this season, sitting at 5-3, 2-3 in the Big 12. Unlike Cincinnati, Houston and UCF, which all came from the American Conference, BYU had been independent since 2011 and regularly constructed difficult schedules full of Power 5 opponents.
“They were playing a really challenging schedule over the last couple of years,” WVU coach Neal Brown offered. “When they went independent, they were playing a ton of Power 5 schools. I think that’s helped in their transition.”
While they are one win away from bowl eligibility, the Cougars have lost all three of their conference road games this season by a combined score of 117-44. Sitake isn’t shying away from the fact that they’ll face another tough road environment in Morgantown on Saturday (7 p.m./FS1)
“I want our guys to go and embrace the environment,” Sitake said. “There’s nothing wrong with going out onto the field and embracing the opportunity in a place that’s going to be difficult to win.”
This will be BYU’s longest road trip this year and its first, and only, game in the Eastern Time Zone in the regular season. Even so, Brown expects the Cougars will have a strong fan presence in Milan Puskar Stadium.
“Watching BYU from afar, it’s a national brand and their group always travels well,” Brown said. “I think this is the only time they’re playing on the East Coast, so there’s probably some juice there for them because there’s a ton of the members of the church that are on the East Coast and I think they’ll be well-represented here.”
BYU and WVU have met just once before on the gridiron, in a neutral site game at FedEx Field in 2016. A pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns by the Cougars couldn’t bring them back as the Mountaineers hung on to win 35-32. WVu running back Rushel Shell ran in two touchdowns and cornerback Rasul Douglas returned a 54-yard pick-six.