BYU football at UMass 5

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake watches his team during the 56-24 Cougar win over UMass at McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst, Mass., on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

No matter how hard a team tries to simulate real football action in camp or in practice, there is just no way to provide the experience of a real game.

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake pointed to the experience of freshman running back Jackson McChesney as he talked about that reality during Monday’s press conference.

“I think an example would be Jackson McChesney against Idaho State,” Sitake said. “There were a lot of things that he did that weren’t correct. We were talking about it and whether it was tracking the run or how he took the handoff or where his eyes were at, not everything was what we hoped for in practice. But in order for us to get him to work on it, I think the experience of going through it and having some film was good for Coach AJ Steward to work with. Then boom, he goes off against UMass. I’m expecting him to play better and continue progressing when we get to San Diego State this weekend. That’s how I expect all of those guys to perform. I use McChesney as an example because we saw a lot of growth from him in one week.”

The Cougars were able to get every healthy player onto the field during the 56-24 victory at UMass on Saturday but things really didn’t go in favor of BYU in the second half.

No one was more disappointed in that fact than Sitake.

“If you saw me during the game, I did a lot of vocalizing about how I felt about it,” Sitake said. “I expect those guys to perform well. Some of the guys did; some didn’t. Just because the game was under control doesn’t mean we go easy on the players. We’ve got to coach them hard and expect them to play at their best. I don’t think they did. It cost us some points but I think those were valuable lessons for us to learn.”

One way that the learning curve was so steep was the fact that the Minutemen didn’t slow their attack at all. Since it was UMass’s Senior Day and its final game of the season, it’s not surprised that the Minutemen were trying to get something positive to work with.

“They kept their guys in and kept throwing,” Sitake said. “That was valuable for our guys to go through. You just can’t simulate that in practice. Now that it is out there and on film, we are going to make some corrections. A lot of guys were watching film on the flight home so they saw it for themselves. It’s a really good opportunity to get better, get our depth better.”

He said that adding more points and stopping UMass would’ve been great but emphasized that the most important goal was achieved.

“We would’ve like to have kept the shutout in the second half but the stat that matters most to me was the win,” Sitake said. “We’re trying to get the team ready for future opportunities and chances to get on the field. Some of those you are going to have to grind your teeth and just correct them. Others you are going to praise them for what they do. I try to be consistent.”

BYU fans will now get to see who earned more playing time as the Cougars close out the regular season at San Diego State on Saturday.

Sitake said this week will be slightly different because of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday … but not by much.

“The goal is just to win the game, doing whatever we can to win the game,” Sitake said. “The only thing that will be changing is that we will have practice a little earlier on Thursday so the guys to get out to their families. We’ll know where all of our guys are at, whether they will be at coach’s or teammate’s homes. All the players will be taken care of that day. We expect them to eat a lot but probably not participate a lot in the Black Friday shopping. But we’ve got to prepare and work hard. I think there are a lot of things we can improve on and I’m looking forward to getting that done today.”

Daily Herald sports reporter Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or jlloyd@heraldextra.com. Twitter: @JaredrLloyd. Instagram: @JaredrLloyd.

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