TOLEDO — When the BYU football team trudged into the locker room at Toledo following its devastating, last-minute 28-21 loss to the Rockets on Saturday, the Cougars had to deal with all of the frustration, disappointment and pain that comes after failure.
BYU senior wide receiver Micah Simon, one of the leaders on the team, had a message for his teammates.
“I told them that I’m tired of losing, tired of this feeling,” Simon said. “I said it is definitely a gut-check for us as a team. It’s time for everyone to look in the mirror, to self-reflect and see how much you care about this, how much effort you are going to put in for the rest of the season to make sure you don’t have this feeling again. As a senior and as a leader, it is my job to do this and help everybody pick themselves up but also know that we are super-disappointed in this loss.”
Cougar senior defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku described the feeling in the locker room as “it sucks.”
“We knew this was a game we had to come in and win, but we didn’t do a good job of winning offense, defense and special teams,” Ghanwoloku said. “We’ve got to do a lot better.”
The evidence of those issues was certainly there as Saturday’s defeat was a microcosm of the way things have gone for BYU throughout the 2019 season.
It’s not that the Cougars were completely bad. There were moments where they did well in each area:
The offense had a big 75-yard chunk play as well as a couple of other long passes, only had one turnover and drove inside the Toledo 35-yard line five times — but it also only put 21 points on the board.
The BYU defense held the potent Toledo offense to just three points in the first half and forced a few of turnovers — but got shredded on a few key Rocket scoring drives in the second half.
The Cougar special teams featured two excellent punt returns, a good kickoff return and a recovery on a muff — but also missed two field goals that might have changed the outcome of the game.
To put it as simply as possible, what BYU needs is more of the good plays and fewer of the bad ones.
“It’s been kind of the issue we’ve had, the inconsistency in all three phases, basically,” Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake said. “We had some missed field goals today although we had some good returns. We couldn’t seem to generate momentum. We’d have it and then we’d seem to give it up.”
There were some factors Saturday that might have contributed to the mixed bag of successes and failures, including the eastern travel, the 10 a.m. Mountain time kickoff and injuries — but Sitake and BYU believe they should be better than they were anyway.
“The energy was there and the guys were playing hard,” Sitake said. “We really didn’t help ourselves with some of the mistakes that we made and that’s something I have to address as head coach. We need to play more consistent. That’s my job. I’ve got to get it done.”
The Cougars are determined to use their upcoming bye week to the maximum extent possible before they head on the road to face South Florida on Oct. 12.
“We want to get everyone as healthy as possible,” Simon said. “That’s probably one of our main priorities. We need to get into the corrections and get to being the type of team that I know we can be, the type of offense I know we can be. A lot of that is execution and trying to stay on the field and score touchdowns.”