PROVO — On a night when the nation was turning into two hours of a nationally televised event that could help determine the future of American democracy, BYU freshman Isaac Rex had something he wanted to say, too.
The 6-foot-6 freshman from San Clemente, California, hunched over the computer during a Zoom video conference Tuesday evening with local media and looked straight into the camera.
Then, appearing almost presidential in his address, he made sure his side of a highly polarizing story was told: the story about his first touchdown and the controversy around how he celebrated it.
"Here’s the deal with the celebration," he said, clearing his throat. "Before the game, Kalani (Sitake) wanted us to get hyped for the game. We had no fans, so he wanted the whole group to have a dance in their back pocket. He said if no one has a dance, then do the Cabbage Patch."
Rex had no idea how to do "the Cabbage Patch," but Sitake gave the group a brief tutorial about the move that originated in 1983 — well before he was born. Perhaps a YouTube tutorial would’ve helped, but the son of former BYU star tight end Byron Rex didn’t have the luxury of time.
He might’ve needed it, though, when quarterback Zach Wilson found the big target for a 10-yard touchdown pass during the Cougars' 48-7 win over Troy. Then Rex’s mind froze.
"Obviously, I’m not a big dancer," the younger Rex said. "And when I scored, I freaked out — I don’t know what to do. But I have to do a dance because my coach told me to."
Rex did the Cabbage Patch, or at least, a slight variation of it, but it didn’t last long. It was awkward and stunted, but also glorious, because of the short-natured variation of the celebration.
"Then all of a sudden, I got a million texts saying how bad of a dancer I am — and I’m just listening to my coach," Rex said. "I kind of got roasted, but it was a lot of fun catching a touchdown."
The No. 22-ranked Cougars were celebrating big Saturday night in Provo, the product of a win over Troy, no fans in the stands due to Provo’s COVID-19 restriction levels, a 2-0 start to the 2020 season, and an offense that rates No. 2 nationally in scoring with 51.5 points per game, as well as 622.0 yards per game and 8.1 yards per play.
It’s been a good start to the season for the BYU offense, which is under the third year of coordinator Jeff Grimes and passing game coordinator Aaron Roderick.
And after offensive struggles marred BYU for its first two seasons under the system, the Cougars plan to enjoy the offensive renaissance — no matter who they are playing.
"If you notice in the games, our players are having fun," Roderick said after practice Tuesday, a combination of Tuesday and Wednesday’s game prep due to the short week before Friday night’s kickoff against Louisiana Tech. "We’re enjoying the moment … and then we understand that we’ve got to do it again.
"That’s our focus right now: winning the next one. It’s not specific schematic things."
BYU (2-0) will have an ESPN2 audience on it Friday night for a 7 p.m. kickoff, and more eyeballs may be on them — not just for the unbeaten start to the year or a dynamic offense against Navy and Troy, but because of their sideline moves.
When the boys come over with a 36 pack of Diet Coke pic.twitter.com/xaD1xq9BJU— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) September 27, 2020
From recruiting coordinators Jasen Ah You and Jack Damuni to defensive back and special teamer Wes Wright to assistant manager Billy Nixon, the Cougars were caught having a lot of fun — maybe too much fun? — during the second half of Saturday’s rout.
"We’re going to turn up the notch on dancing even more now because it’s getting so much attention," Sitake said. "I just want our guys to enjoy the moment and have fun with the game. That goes for the coaches, too. We got into this because of the game, and I just want them to stay loose."
For the record, there was one unanimous winner of the weekend in an informal poll conducted among BYU players and coaches who spoke with the media this week: It was Nixon, the previously little-known assistant football manager who went viral on social media.
"Those guys were pulling some moves I’ve never seen before," defensive lineman Zac Dawe said. "Kalani’s a great dancer, but I think Billy Nixon won this week."
It's easy to dance when things are clicking the way they have been for the Cougars.
A former offensive coordinator at Utah, Roderick has helped guide Wilson to an 80% passing efficiency for 624 yards and four touchdowns through the air, pairing it with a ground game that features twin tailbacks Tyler Allgeier (7.6 yards per carry) and Lopini Katoa (7.4 ypc) who have four touchdowns combined.
Still, not everything is perfect with the offense. Roderick said the Cougars know that, and it’s why they were back at the drawing board Monday to prepare to keep pace with the Bulldogs, who are averaging 48.5 points and 461.5 yards per game in wins over Southern Miss and Houston Baptist.
It’s not the only thing they need to work on, either.
"Isaac is a terrible dancer and celebrator," Roderick chided the big tight end with soft hands. "He’s just … it was awful."
Maybe Rex’s go-to move shouldn’t involve dancing but should involve the other part of his celebration: high-fiving the sideline official. It’s becoming a tradition at BYU, after all.
"I gave the ball to (BYU center) James Empey, and then high-fived the ref," Rex said. "I should’ve done the opposite.
"Playing football is playing football," he later added. "We’re just excited to be playing. We’re going to keep bringing the juice … and show the world that BYU is a fun, energetic, but also winning program."