BYU Football: What can BYU expect from the South Florida Bulls in Game 1?

After then-rookie quarterback Timmy McClain threw for 186 yards and rushed for an additional 55 in South Florida’s 35-27 loss to BYU last September, many Cougar fans at LaVell Edwards Stadium left thinking that a more experienced McClain would give BYU attacks this year in the rematch in Tampa, Florida.

The good news for BYU’s defense is that McClain won’t suit up for the Bulls this Saturday in both clubs’ season openers at Raymond James Stadium (2 p. work in 2022.

The bad news is that McClain lost the quarterback derby to a caller who actually beat the Cougars last year: former Baylor quarterback Gerry Bohanon. In a scenario that sums up the state of college football these days, Bohanon, who threw for 231 yards against the Cougars, transferred to USF after Blake Shapen was named the Bears’ spring training starter by coach Dave Aranda.

“They have some new bodies and some new players. They are very talented. I think they have a very, very good coaching staff. They’ll have their boys ready. We have to be ready and make sure we are giving our best.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake.

Bohanon “is a very, very good quarterback,” BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said. “We saw it last year.”

South Florida was picked to finish ninth in the 2022 American Athletic Conference football preseason media poll released in July. But the Bulls return with 10 starters on offense and nine on defense, as well as their starting punter and kicker. According to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, 86% of USF’s 2021 production returns in 2022.

“They will be ready to play against us. Everyone is undefeated right now. (Playing) the first game will bring a lot of excitement,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “They have some new bodies and some new players. They are very talented. I think they have a very, very good coaching staff. They’ll have their boys ready. We have to be ready and make sure we are giving our best.”

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South Florida students started classes last Monday and the Bulls had the day off. Game week-type preparations began for BYU on Tuesday. The Cougars wrapped up fall training on Tuesday, took Wednesday off for some team activities and began focusing solely on USF on Thursday.

In addition to on-field stories like BYU quarterback Jaren Hall’s return to the site of his first college start, last year’s shooting in Provo and Bohanon’s transfer, a theme that has come up since the start of the 4 p. May has been the expected heat and humidity on September 3 in Tampa.

“The heat is going to be different (for the Cougars), but we also have to be prepared,” USF coach Jeff Scott told gousfbulls.com. “Even though we’re at this every day, that doesn’t make it easy. We have to execute at a very high level. I promise you it’s going to be hot and humid at 4 o’clock (Saturday).”

However, according to a 10-day forecast on Weather.com, there could be a few isolated thunderstorms in the afternoon after a rainy morning.

“I think we’ll be in a really good place going into the game and going into that humidity,” Sitake said. “It helped that we had really hot record temperatures in the state of Utah this summer and even now. It was very hot, but the humidity is another story. I think our guys will be ready for that.”

Sitake said BYU coaches and sports scientists have been working on a hydration and nutrition plan to help players avoid fatigue and cramps.

“We are tired of playing against each other. We want to play someone else and this is the right time to end camp,” Sitake said Tuesday. “Let’s start putting all of our energy and focus into playing in South Florida.”

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The Bulls averaged fewer than 22,000 fans per game at the 75,000-seat Raymond James Stadium last year, according to The Oracle, but Scott predicts a “big crowd” and a “big section of students” for Game 1.

“And they have an opportunity to make an impact on the game,” Scott said.

BYU will travel to Tampa on Thursday, as it always does for Saturday games in the Eastern time zone.

BYU’s Hall said the Cougars are ready to start the season.

“Everything is installed (on the offensive end),” he said. “Of course when you get to game week, depending on your opponent, what you think you can use, you can add a few things, tweak a few things here and there. That just comes with those first few practices leading up to that first game.”

BYU running back Lopini Katoa said the Cougars are as prepared for a first game as he can remember in his five years with the program.

“You’re working hard in the first few weeks of fall camp and working hard to be on the same page with everyone and look like a good team,” Katoa said. “Now is the time to settle in and get ready to play in the game.”

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