PROVO — For the first time in almost one year, BYU is riding a two-game regular-season winning streak.
Last October, the Cougars had won two straight games after defeating Utah State, only to fall at home to Oregon State. A couple of weeks later, BYU traveled to Atlanta and blasted Georgia Tech, 41-17, to snap a two-game losing streak and start a two-game winning streak that ended with a loss at San Jose State.
As the Yellow Jackets visit LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday (5 p.m., ESPNU) for BYU’s homecoming game, the Cougars are looking to build on the momentum generated by a 31-14 victory at Utah State and establish a three-game winning streak for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.
“We’re learning and we’re growing. This is a step forward for us,” senior safety Daniel Sorensen said after last Friday’s win in Logan. “We’re going to get better each week. We’re going to build off this week and carry it on to next week. We took a step forward both on defense and on offense. We’re going to get better as the season goes on. Hopefully we can carry this momentum as we go throughout this season and finish strong.”
“I think we are trending upward,” coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “We are gaining momentum.”
The Cougars (3-2) opened the season with a disappointing 1-2 record, including a devastating setback at home to archrival Utah.
Senior wide receiver JD Falslev said his team has shown that it has bounced back.
“We could have folded early,” he said. “For the seniors not to win against Utah, it could have been a devastating blow. That doesn’t mean it didn’t hurt, but I think we came back with the mindset that we have to get better every day. We took a big step forward in being a physical, dominant force offensively.”
BYU’s passing game showed significant improvement against Utah State. Quarterback Taysom Hill completed 17 of 31 passes for a career-high 278 yards and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Mitch Mathews emerged by catching a career-high five passes for 112 yards and three TDs.
“We can’t get too high on this game,” Mathews said Friday. “It was a great win, but we have to build upon this because obviously we weren’t perfect. I made mistakes; everyone made mistakes. This is a game that we needed to springboard us to our next game.”
Falslev agreed, explaining that while the Cougars are building momentum, they can’t get complacent.
“We have to continue to execute. As long as we do that, we’ll be just fine. As we continue to build an offense that can move the ball effectively, our confidence will soar. The sky’s the limit for us.”
Georgia Tech (3-2) is coming off a 45-30 loss at No. 13 Miami. The Yellow Jackets gained 151 rushing yards in the first quarter, had the ball for nearly 14 minutes, and scored on their first three possessions.
But quarterback Vad Lee fumbled deep in Hurricane territory, altering the course of the game. Miami then shored up its defense against Georgia Tech’s high-powered option attack.
“You couldn’t have scripted a better start,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “We were holding the ball, keeping the ball away from them. Had a couple of turnovers early and felt we had a lot of momentum. Then we turned it back, which really hurt us.”
Last season in Atlanta, BYU running back Jamaal Williams scored four touchdowns and the Cougar defense stymied the ground game of the ‘Jackets. Georgia Tech entered the contest No. 3 in the nation in rushing, averaging 339 yards per game, but finished with just 157 (BYU’s Williams ran for 161 yards by himself).
The Yellow Jacket offense scored only three points and it went 0 for 10 on third-down conversion attempts.
BYU is hoping for similar results, and another win, Saturday.