SAN DIEGO — An adapted cliche says that to err is human but to blame someone else is even more human.
It would be easy for BYU’s defensive players to do some finger-pointing after how things played out in the 13-3 Cougar loss at San Diego State on Saturday.
The Aztec offense was limited to just 269 total yards (97 rushing, 172 passing) and held to just 13 points.
Only once in BYU’s first 11 games in 2019 would that total have been enough points for an opponent for the Cougars to lose (BYU lost to Utah, 30-12 in the season-opener).
But on Saturday those totals weren’t even close to enough as BYU’s offense and special teams only managed to put three points on the board.
The Cougar defenders who answered questions after the game, however, weren’t about to absolve their unit for any of the blame in the disappointing defeat.
“We had a lot of missed tackles and missed assignments on the defensive side,” BYU junior defensive end Khyiris Tonga said. “We didn’t create any turnovers and I think we put our offense in a lot of bad positions. I don’t know how many times their punts ended up inside the 20-yard line. We had a lot of good opportunities to change the momentum and we didn’t do that. It’s up to us as a defense to help with the offense and we’ll do better.”
Cougar junior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi echoed the same sentiments.
“We knew SDSU had a great defense,” Kaufusi said. “For us defensively, we had the mindset that we were going to cheer on the offense and just play defense. We had faith in our offense and we’ve seen great plays from them. We were confident in them and it wasn’t all their fault at all.”
He had some harsh things to say about his own personal performance.
“I was really disappointed in myself,” Kaufusi said. “There were a lot of mistakes and things I could’ve cleaned up. I think as a defense we were pretty disappointed. We gave up 13 points but we forced zero turnovers. Those are the things that can really change a game. Looking back, I’m frustrated that I couldn’t produce any takeaways. I had opportunities to do so and missed those.”
BYU sophomore quarterback Zach Wilson, on the other hand, was very direct in his critique of the Cougar offensive showing.
“They are holding a team to 13 points, so we’ve got to do better,” Wilson said. “That’s on us as an offense. We had stats but getting in the end zone is the best stat to have. We have to do that.”
BYU’s special teams also had plenty of miscues, particularly in field goal kicking. Cougar sophomore kicker Skyler Southam was just 1-of-3 on attempts on Saturday, meaning BYU is now 5-of-13 on field goals since the beginning of October.
“We thought Skyler had won the position from the competition last week but obviously it didn’t pan out,” Sitake said. “I still believe in those guys. They’ve shown they can kick the ball well but it just hasn’t shown up in the last few weeks. That needs to change and I’ll try to get that fixed.”
The Cougar players and coaches understand that the loss to San Diego State — just like earlier losses to Utah, Washington, Toledo and South Florida — didn’t come down to one person or one unit.
Since football is a team game, the entire team deserves credit for success and blame for failure.
“We have to do our assignments, our 1/11th and make sure everyone does the right thing,” Tonga said. “We can’t worry about anyone else. We have to trust each other and that’s something that we need to work on. We have to continue to improve, not point fingers and be positive.”
BYU lost the coin toss, making the Cougars 6-8 on all coin tosses in 2019. San Diego State elected to receive the ball but was forced to punt on its opening possession … BYU’s captains for the game were Dayan Ghanwoloku (Sr. DB), Troy Warner (Sr. DB), Aleva Hifo (Sr. WR), Micah Simon (Sr. WR) … the Cougar team flag was carried out by Uriah Leiataua (Jr. DL), while the alumni flags were carried by Mark Bellini (WR, 1982-86), K.O. Kealaluhi (WR, 1995-96), Phil Giordano (DB, 1994-97) and Gabe Giordano (LB, 1995-97). BYU had a special team flag carried by David Graham, a BYU fan honoring his daughter, Addie, who passed away tragically in November … The announced attendance at the game was 28,180.