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PREVIEW: BYU Football ready to begin season at Arizona

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake protests a call in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO – BYU Football is getting set to kick off its new season as it travels to battle with Pac-12 foe Arizona University with game time set at 8:45 PM on ESPN on Saturday.

The Cougars are coming off a season in which they saw themselves not being bowl eligible and only winning four games as they finished 4-9. However, the football team says it “ready to go” on the new season.

“There’s a different fire in everybody’s eyes. There’s a drive. They don’t want anything like last year again,” offensive lineman Tristen Hoge said of his teammates. “There are guys here who don’t know anything but winning and last year was a shock. The feeling of winning — there’s no comparison. They want that back again.”

It was only a week ago the coaches even named a starting quarterback in senior Tanner Mangum. They made no official announcement, but rather listed him as a starter through a depth chart. Mangum battled a true freshman in Zach Wilson for the spot, but the Cougars’ new offensive coordinator, Jeff Grimes says it was the last week of camp where the senior quarterback proved to be more consistent.

“It really was close up right until that last week when he sort of separated himself (Mangum),” Grimes said. “That last week, he was more consistent in handling situations, getting the checks right, making decisions and his completion percentage was slightly better.”

The coaches have said they felt comfortable with either quarterback starting. However, head coach Kalani Sitake says he does not want guys constantly looking over their shoulder.

“I don’t think you can play loose if you’re under those circumstances,” Sitake said. “We trust our guys to compete and we hope they perform when the time comes.”

The last time the Cougars took on Arizona was Sitake’s first year as head coach and Taysom Hill was the starting quarterback with Jamaal Williams as the running back.

BYU led most of the game, but relinquished the lead with 1:26 left trailing 16-15. Hill led the team down field and Jake Oldroyd kicked a 33 yard field goal with four seconds left to win it for the Cougars 18-16. Williams led the offensive attack rushing for 162 yards.

The stories for each football team are different this time around as BYU looks to have a bounce back season after having some offensive struggles last season.

Arizona is a team some experts see as a possible sleeper to contend in the Pac-12 South. Last year they were third offensively in the nation in rushing at 309 yards per game. They finished 12th in total offense in the nation as well.

BYU has not only come off a tough season, but has had some coaching changes and cultural changes as well. However, the players say they have worked hard and are ready to take the field.

“I’m excited to get going,” said Mangum. “It’s that time. It’s game week and everyone’s pumped now.”