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BYU football frustrated because it knows it can play better

By Jared Lloyd - | Oct 18, 2021

Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo

BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua waves to Cougar fans after the 38-24 Cougar loss to Baylor in Waco, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

There was a clear theme to what the BYU football players and coaches had to say during Monday’s press conference after the disappointing 38-24 loss at Baylor.

“I wouldn’t say that the team is disappointed or down,” Cougar linebacker Ben Bywater said. “Obviously, we’re frustrated, because we know we can play better. After a loss like that, there’s always lessons to learn. You can sit there and point fingers at what position group could’ve been better, but at the end of the day, a loss is a loss. So you show up Monday, see what you can do better, and then it’s on to Washington State.”

BYU offensive lineman echoed almost the exact same sentiment as he said, “We’re more just disappointed in ourselves because we know we can play better, and we didn’t play up to the ability that we know we can. The morale is let’s get back to work, let’s get back to the basics, let’s be physical like we know we can be, and improve on the small and simple things. As we do that, then we’ll be prepared for this weekend.”

One of the benefits of the way college football games are scheduled roughly a week apart is that a team can take time to learn but it doesn’t have time to waste.

The Cougars can’t bemoan losing two straight games or it will all to easily result in a third-straight loss.

“We need to stay focused on our next opponent and learn from the mistakes and the shortcomings that we had over the weekend,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said. “They (the Bears) are a really good team, a big team and a physical team. We didn’t match their physical presence well enough to earn the victory. We’re really hoping to change that against Washington State.”

That is one of the clearest, most obvious takeaways from BYU’s loss on Saturday was that it has to be better defensively at the point of attack since it is rare that a team gives up more than 300 yards rushing to an opponent and wins.

“We needed to be more stout,” Bywater said. “I’m not going to sit here and sugarcoat it and say that we did what we needed to do, because we didn’t. So, being more stout this week, it’s a mindset thing. It’s throwing your body out there and being prepared and being confident.”

It’s harder to do that when a team has its depth limited by injuries. Cougar defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said during Monday’s Coordinator’s Corner show that the coaching staff feels they have a “beaten-up defense that is just kind of surviving.”

“We need to get back to playing with swagger ,” Tuiaki said on the show. “We need to get back to completing takeaways and taking more pride in getting off the field and playing better defense. We can do that. That’s the expectation for us and we’ve got to demand more.”

Sitake shrugged that off somewhat, noting that it is part of the game.

“We are mid season and we have guys who are banged up, guys who are playing with injury and guys who aren’t 100%,” Sitake said. “That’s the game of football. We are depending on depth and talent. Sometimes inexperience shows a little bit. It’s time to grow up and get better. We aren’t 100%, but neither are Baylor and Washington State. We have to tough it out.”

He said his coaches are considering all possibilities as they look at improving defensively.

“I’m not closed to making changes,” Sitake said. “Baylor decided they were going to go big and shove the run down our throat. We didn’t respond the right way. If Washington State decides to do that, then fine. We need to toughen up. If they decide to run the ball and spread, we need to figure out how to stop the run. If you can get a team to be more one-sided, that’s a huge advantage and is more predictable. That was a huge disadvantage for us against Baylor.”

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