DICKSON: Huge upset of Wisconsin could be a program changer for BYU

September 16, 2018

Darnell Dickson of the Daily Herald

With today’s technology, fans can go on sports overload on Saturdays.

You can follow any number of sports on your computer or device, plus zip around to various college football games on your 60-inch HD television.

It’s a wonderful time to be alive and have a man cave.

Now, be honest — how many of you thought you’d be switching from the BYU-Wisconsin game sometime during the second half to a more competitive contest?

The Cougars were a 22.5-point underdog to the No. 6 Badgers, just like most of the 41 other non-conference victims that have fallen in Madison since 2003.

Wisconsin fans — who have been known to consume plenty of adult beverages on Saturdays in the fall — couldn’t believe their blurry eyes as they looked at the scoreboard when the clock hit zeros.

BYU 24, Wisconsin 21.

Moral victories are dumb, anyway. Real victories rule.

After last week’s disappointing loss to Cal at LaVell Edwards Stadium, BYU’s chances at Camp Randall Stadium were slimmer than a runway model. If your buddy tells you he “had a feeling,” he’s lying. Blue goggles? You would have needed a daily blue IV drip to believe — based on the loss to Cal — that the Cougars had a shot against powerful Wisconsin.

This was an epic upset, along the lines of beating No. 1 Miami in 1990 or No. 3 Oklahoma in 2009, the last time BYU upset a Top 10 team.

Its last win against a Top 10 team on the road?

Go back to 1984 in the opener against No. 3 Pitt.

Something happened this week on the Cougar practice field, and hardly anyone was there to witness it because practices are closed.

BYU found its mojo.

On the Camp Randall Stadium field, BYU manifested its improvement and commitment with every snap. The Cougars stood toe-to-toe with a Big Ten program known for overpowering its opponents. They made big offensive plays for the first time this season. They got the stops they needed in the fourth quarter. They got the “call back-to-back time outs” strategy to work on Wisconsin’s final field goal attempt.

It was as perfect a Saturday afternoon as BYU fans have experienced in a long, long time.

Squally Canada, who broke off two long runs and finished with 118 rushing yards and two touchdowns, said after the game, “You don’t feel no pain after a win like this.”

All you feel is euphoria, whether you played or watched.

It’s apparent BYU isn’t as bad as it looked last week against Cal, and it’s also apparent Wisconsin probably isn’t the No. 6 team in the country. But the polls are a huge measuring stick. Cougar coach Kalani Sitake was eager to see how much his team had grown since getting waxed last year at home by those same Badgers.

Question answered.

The game will be broken down and discussed over the next few days by fans and media, while the players will try to move on because McNeese State comes to Provo next Saturday.

Here’s a topic for discussion: What does this win mean?

The 1984 victory against Pitt propelled BYU through its undefeated season on its way to a national championship. The win against Miami back in 1990 pushed the Cougars into the national spotlight but was followed three weeks later with a disappointing loss at Oregon. BYU’s win upset of Oklahoma in 2009 could have been a program-changer, but two weeks later the Cougars laid an egg at home against Florida State.

A big win is only a program changer if you do something with it.

The opportunities lie ahead for BYU. At 2-1, the six-win plateau to reach a bowl game seems even more achievable. McNeese State can’t be overlooked as a ranked Football Championship Subdivision team. Then the Cougars play at another Top 10 team, Washington. There cannot be a big letdown such as the one we saw after the Arizona win.

In the post-game, Sitake said he had the best seat in the house to watch the upset of Wisconsin.

The thousands of BYU fans who saw it on their big screen TVs would probably argue with him about that.

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