For those of you who are first-time readers, welcome! Here is a link explaining my process of how I recap BYU games while paying respect to the rich historical tradition of the BYU Cougars I love.
BYU Game 9 View from the Midwest – BYU vs. East Carolina
Trying to save this defense.
The defense is struggling in two very large areas and has been without exception all this year. They can not get the offense back on the field and they are losing the battle at the line of scrimmage and can’t make negative plays on the opposing offense.
Getting the offense back on the field.
The Cougars are 123rd in the nation in third down defense. They allow their opponents to convert third downs a whopping 47 percent of the time (57 of 121). Their fourth down defense isn’t much better at 59th in the country allowing giving the other team a first down on fourth down half the time (9 of 18). Essentially, if you’re playing BYU and you get in a third or fourth down situation as an offense you have a 50/50 shot of getting a first down.
The Cougars came into the matchup with Pirates ranked 91st in the nation on turnovers forced with a paltry nine. Forcing no turnovers against East Carolina will only have the Cougars further down that list once all the weekend games a completed.
Winning the battle in the trenches.
The BYU Pass Rush.
Through their first eight games, the Cougars ranked 123rd in the nation in sacks with nine total, averaging 1.12 per game. In the loss to ECU BYU didn’t record a single sack and only hurried the quarterback twice. Their pressuring the quarterback is non-existent and has been that way during the entire Kalani Sitake Era. It’s actually difficult to
Tackles for a loss.
BYU is getting no push at the line of scrimmage, particularly on defense. The Cougars are 125th in tackles for a loss with 36 on the season, only slightly more than half of what Liberty who is second in the NCAA has at 70. The Cougars are 120th in rushing defense, allowing 205.7 yards per game giving up 1,851 rushing yards on the season.
Big Shoes filled.
The Cougars were missing their best defensive player in Max Tooley, their best offensive player in Kody Epps, one of their best running backs in Chris Brooks, and maybe their most experienced player in Gunner Romney. Despite being missed dearly, even this group likely couldn’t have made the difference between a win and a loss against the Pirates. These men were in the first three games of this losing streak and their best efforts couldn’t get the Cougars a win.
Even with them out their big shoes were filled. Lopini Katoa was the Luke Staley-Tyler Allgeier Rusher of the Game with 20 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown. Jaren Hall and Puka Nacua continued to be lethal together and separately. Hall’s bomb to Nacua was the Jim McMahon Throw of the Game. And Hall broke out his mobility to help open up the offense and set the ECU defense on their heels. Hall was 18 of 25 for 144 yards and two touchdowns passing and added 60 yards on eight carries to the running game. Puka played well enough to be the Austin Collie Receiver of the Game as he had 10 touches for 101 yards and the big touchdown catch.
Coaches or players?
When faced with the question of who has more responsibility for this losing streak and bad season that has enveloped the Cougars, there does seem to be a correct answer, especially after this loss. Even without the aforementioned key players who were out because of injury, their teammates stepped up in their absence. The fact that the story remains the same for the Cougars no matter if a big-time player is in the game or not would suggest that the struggles of this team start at the top.
Rise and Shout Again.
Up next is a rivalry game that has produced some great moments but with the Cougar’s move to the Big 12, it will be put on the shelf for the foreseeable future. The Broncos of Boise State are 5-2 and 4-0 in the Mountain West. The Broncos started the season 2-2 and after an absolutely awful game against the UTEP Miners in which they only scored 10 points, Boise State fired their offensive coordinator and have averaged over 30 points a game since. On the blue turf, the Battle for the Best Blue will see Boise State eager to give BYU a loss as a parting gift before they join the Big 12.
Big 12 Buyer’s Remorse.
Speaking of the Cougar’s new conference, after losing four in a row the Big 12 might be thinking twice (or four times) about the Cougars joining. If things don’t get changed and changed quickly for the Cougars they will be what the Kansas Jayhawks had almost always been in the Big 12 up until this season; the doormat of the conference. That 21-4 is looking like ancient history right now.
Is Kalani Sitake the man to lead BYU into the Big 12?
BYU is 28-2 at home when scoring 24 or more in the Coach Sitake Era. Both of those losses have come this month. This loss to ECU and two weeks ago to Arkansas. Defensive Coordinator Coach Tuiaki offered to step down after the Arkansas loss but Coach Sitake refused his offer saying the Cougars needed all hands on deck. One has to wonder after the losses to Liberty and ECU if the Cougars don’t need fewer hands on deck. This is a big development to learn of during this losing streak. That’s because it puts the heat that comes with such an unexpected and unacceptable slide solely on the head coach. You have to respect Coach Sitake’s mindset that the buck stops with him. However, it actually hurts him more now that he didn’t make any staff changes. Now it is clear and known that his assistants have been operating with his full approval and support. So much so that he himself would do nothing differently in their place.
Add this to the aforementioned conclusion that BYU is playing at their current level, with or without various players who have been out at different times this year and this four-game losing streak is on Coach Kalani Sitake. This pressure and heat will only grow the longer the questions and struggles hang over this program. I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong, and Coach Sitake still has it, and I’ll a big plate of crow if he beats Boise State, Utah Tech, and Stanford, and wins a bowl game to have this team finish 8-5.
But with 5-7 getting closer every week with a roster that should have had double-digit wins and been in the conversation for a New Years Six game this year rightly or wrongly it is Coach Sitake’s mess to wear and some serious conversations about the future of BYU football and who will lead it may need to be had. I don’t think BYU is aggressive enough as a program to make a change even if the Cougars don’t win again this year. Unless they were to fire Tom Holmoe as well but this too would fly in the face of what is starting to become a gospel true fact and that is that the BYU fans care more about the team than the people who run it at the administrative level do.
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Read about all the Cougars’ games so far this season!
- BYU at South Florida (W)
- BYU vs Baylor (W)
- BYU at Oregon (L)
- BYU vs Wyoming (W)
- BYU vs Utah State (W)
- BYU vs. Notre Dame (L)
- BYU vs. Arkansas (L)
- BYU at Liberty (L)
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