Calamity, catastrophe, collapse, debacle, failure, fiasco, setback, tragedy ... it’s easy to find plenty of harsh words to describe the 2017 BYU football season.
But whether you prefer “abysmal” or “horrendous,” “appalling” or “ghastly,” the reality is simply that there is little the Cougars can do about it now.
Coming off of Saturday’s pitiful 16-10 home loss to UMass, BYU now has just one game at Hawaii before it can finally relegate 2017 to the record books.
“We have one more game to help springboard us to next season,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said Saturday. “We’ve got to see some stuff in this last game. I owe it to the seniors and I owe it to the fans and everyone that this is a better football team than what we are playing like.”
The much bigger question is how will the BYU football program as a whole respond to its worst season in more than 60 years.
Cougar senior defensive lineman Handsome Tanielu hopes everyone is learning lessons from all the adversity.
“We’ve seen great teams rise up and do well after a really, really bad year,” he said. “We are hoping that with all these things not going our way, the best part about it is that there is another year coming. There are things to learn from. You’ll know who are the players returning.”
Tanielu explained that the 2018 BYU football team has to have learned that it can’t expect to just show up to get victories.
“We can’t rely on a previous year’s hype to intimidate others and allow us to win,” Tanielu said. “Every game has to be your last-game effort, close-game effort. We’ve been in games where we were up and we lose. We’ve been in games where we’ve been down and we worked our way back up and lost. I feel like every play has to mean something.”
He believes the Cougars will approach everything differently during the upcoming offseason.
“The positive side of it is that next year, these guys know what it feels like to lose,” Tanielu said. “There is nothing worse than having a loser come back and prepare for a new season. That’s when they are most hungry. That’s when they play their best.”
BYU sophomore defensive lineman Trajan Pili spoke for the underclassman when he said that he believes their job is to “not let this happen again.”
“We need to find a way to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Pili said. “From every loss and every win, there is something to learn. We’re going to take that when this season ends and put that into the offseason. We know what we don’t want to happen. It won’t happen again.”
In many ways, that process is already under way. The Cougars have a week of preparation to utilize before 2017 ends.
“We have to make a lot of improvements, especially without having the ability to practice for bowl game prep,” Sitake said. “We have to find a way to use every minute we have up until this game. It’s important for the underclassmen.”
But while all the freshmen, sophomores and juniors can use the frustration as motivation for the next season of football, the BYU seniors now will be looking toward other things.
“They will be joining a fraternity and they played great football,” Sitake said. “They played a lot of downs here for BYU. I wanted a win for them but that doesn’t take away from what they’ve done in the past and the positives that they’ve done. I’ve seen a lot of young men grow up in the two years that I have been here. I’m really excited about the future for them, whether they move on the NFL or not. They are going to do some good things.”