Football, Sports, WVU Sports

In need of offensive spark, BYU will start backup quarterback against WVU

MORGANTOWN — The BYU Cougars have been sputtering on offense in recent weeks and this week against WVU, they’ll have to turn to their backup quarterback.

As reported by The Salt Lake Tribune Friday morning, BYU (5-3, 2-3) will start junior Jake Retzlaff in place of Kedon Slovis, who is dealing with injuries, against WVU (5-3, 3-2).

Despite going 2-2 in their last four games, the Cougars have not put up more than 300 yards of offense since Sept. 23 against Kansas. 

“We’ve got to get there. It doesn’t really matter how it gets done,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said earlier this week. “I think there’s a variety of ways to getting it done, but it’s go-time now. It’s been go-time, but the way that we’ve been doing it hasn’t been working the way that I want it to.”

Slovis, who found his way to Provo, Utah this summer by way of Pitt, transferred this off-season after spending 2022 as the Panthers’ starter. He, too, had struggled lately, not topping 200 passing yards in BYU’s last three games while throwing more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two) in that span.

Slovis beat WVU in last year’s Backyard Brawl, throwing for 308 yards and a touchdown in the 38-31 Panther victory.

Retzlaff will reportedly step into the starting role against the Mountaineers (7 p.m./FOX). He is a junior college transfer who has been redshirting this season. He was ranked as the top JUCO quarterback recruit this off-season after passing for 4,596 and 44 touchdowns in 2022 at Riverside City College.

In the Cougars’ offense, he’ll have receivers Chase Roberts and Darius Lassiter to throw to. The duo has combined for 61 receptions for 806 yards and eight touchdowns. 

True freshman LJ Martin is the team’s leading rusher with 465 yards and four scores. He ran for 93 yards on 10 carries last week against Texas. The Cougars have been most effective running the ball recently, averaging 112 yards per game over their last three contests.

“More than anything, we’ve got to focus on what we’ve got to do first,” Sitake said. “I think there are things we need to do within ourselves and our system that we can control more than about having to worry about anything else.”

WVU’s defense is looking for a return to its early season form following a disappointing outing against Houston and a fourth-quarter collapse against Oklahoma State two weeks ago.

“We need to redeem ourselves after the fourth quarter against Oklahoma State,” WVU coach Neal Brown said. “Looking forward to getting back in front of our home fans.”

The Mountaineers showed positive signs during last week’s win over UCF, forcing four turnovers and only allowing 27 rushing yards after halftime.

“They’re physical, you can tell that their team is used to contact,” Sitake said of WVU’s defense. “They are tough guys and I’m looking forward to the matchup. I respect what they do and they utilize their talent really, really well.”

This is just the second-ever meeting between WVU and BYU and their first as conference foes. The Mountaineers won their first matchup, 35-32, in a neutral-site game at FedEx Field in 2016.

Howley honored

Hall of Fame linebacker Chuck Howley will be immortalized inside Milan Puskar Stadium during the game as his No. 66 will be retired and placed on the facade along with five other Mountaineer greats.

“One of the greatest players that’s ever played here,” Brown said.

Howley, who was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer, played for the Mountaineers from 1954-57 before moving on to the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL.

“When he was getting inducted into the (Pro Football) Hall of Fame last summer I saw a (former Dallas Cowboys coach) Tom Landry quote that he might’ve been the best football player he ever coached,” Brown said. “That’s everything that needs to be said about that.”

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