BYU redshirt freshman receiver Chase Roberts enjoyed his breakout game against Baylor, and all the spoils that came with it, for about 24 hours.
Once Monday hit, however, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound returned missionary from American Fork High turned his attention to Saturday’s showdown (1:30 p.m. MDT, Fox) with No. 25 Oregon, and the realization hit him as squarely as a throw from quarterback Jaren Hall.
“Yeah, I am sure, after a good game (that will happen),” Roberts said after practice Wednesday. “Jaren Hall did target me quite a bit. So I am sure they will have an eye on me. But the good thing is we have all these other receivers that will go off if that is the case.
“If not,” Roberts continued, “then we will do our thing. And no matter what, we will score some points.”
“They look a lot better than last week. It is day to day. It really is a game-time deal. They look really good, and it is literally day by day. … I just know they are running (in practice) and they look good.” — BYU receivers coach Fesi Sitake on WRs Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua
Of course, one of the reasons why Roberts was able to catch eight passes for 122 yards and a touchdown against Baylor was the absence of BYU’s top two receivers, Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua, who were out with injuries.
BYU passing game coordinator and receivers coach Fesi Sitake said Wednesday that Nacua and Romney have been doing individual drills in practice this week, but are still game-time decisions for Oregon.
“They look a lot better than last week. It is day to day. It really is a game-time deal. They look really good, and it is literally day by day,” Sitake said. “… I just know they are running (in practice) and they look good.”
Roberts isn’t the only BYU receiver who stepped up against the Bears; redshirt sophomore Keanu Hill (four catches, 57 yards), redshirt freshman Kody Epps (three catches, 28 yards) and redshirt junior Brayden Cosper (two catches, 13 yards) also made timely, drive-prolonging plays.
“Really, it was just gratifying. Very proud of those guys. I had no doubts,” Sitake said. “… Our whole room — myself, those guys included — knew the next man was going to step up and be ready. It was really fun to see them make plays, a lot of clutch plays, have a lot of fun. It was definitely a memory I will never forget and I know they won’t, either.”
Sitake acknowledges that Roberts’ talent won’t catch Oregon by surprise, but says life won’t necessarily get tougher on the receiver.
“I think it just gets easier,” Sitake said. “When you play football, despite the opponent, the atmosphere, all that stuff, that first big breakthrough game, in my opinion, just kinda (takes) that weight off his shoulders. And every game brings different challenges. I am not going to say it is going to be a breeze from here on out. But my guess is that he’s got that game out of the way and it is a good one.”
Roberts said he is “just here to play some football” and isn’t feeling any extra pressure to duplicate what happened last week.
“Something that Gunner told me is, ‘It is just a game, go out and play,’” Roberts said. “I feel just chill, just comfortable. I am going to go out and do my thing.”
That said, Roberts believes Oregon’s secondary marks a step up in competition from what Baylor’s less-experienced defenders showed last week.
“They are some of the most athletic football players that I have seen on film, just their measurables and everything. We are going to get their best,” he said of the Ducks. “Obviously they want to beat us and so we are just going to go out and play our game, play some football, and hopefully it will be a good fight and we can take it to them.”
Sitake agreed with the young receiver, saying Oregon cornerback Christian Gonzalez, a transfer from Colorado, is an NFL prospect.
“Really good, very athletic,” Sitake said. “They are big. They are physical. … They are experienced. They are good players. We are going to have a really good challenge this week — not just personnel-wise, but schematically. They play a lot of man coverage as well, so we are going to be tested, and I know our guys are excited for the opportunity.”
Romney, Nacua and Cosper have faced plenty of big, loud crowds in their days at BYU, and, for Nacua, his days at Washington. But guys such as Roberts, Epps and Hill have not. Roberts says it isn’t a big concern.
“I think just staying cool, calm and collected is always kind of the phrase that we say,” Roberts said. “And Jaren (Hall) is the epitome of that. So it is nice to have a quarterback that kinda sets the tone. And then the receivers, everyone, kinda has that demeanor and we are able to stay cool, calm, collected the whole game.”
To simulate the atmosphere and noise at Autzen, the Cougars have pumped in music and crowd noise through speakers strategically placed around the practice field and the indoor practice facility. And it has been uncharacteristically rainy in Provo this week, particularly when BYU has practiced outdoors.
“It is just one of those things that you gotta practice for,” Sitake said of the noise. “Luckily the weather has been very similar to the Pacific Northwest area, so I don’t know what the football gods are doing, but they are clearly sending us some rain that we might need.
“It is hard,” he continued. “You can’t simulate Autzen, but we are trying to do as much as we can and are doing a good job with that.”
Cougars on the air
No. 12 BYU (2-0) at No. 25 Oregon (1-1)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT
Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM