Will BYU football fans be glad to see 2019 in the rear-view mirror?
After having their emotions yanked around like a yo-yo again, the likely answer from many Cougar supporters would be yes.
BYU put together another wildly-inconsistent season with some observers calling it one of the most unpredictable teams in the nation week-in and week-out.
Before all of the attention turns to 2020, it’s time to take one more look back at the ups and the downs, the good and the bad.
Here are the Top 10 BYU football stories from 2019:
1. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake has contract extension announced in locker room after win
It was a surreal video that emerged from the Cougar locker room after BYU defeated Idaho State, 42-10, and officially accepted the invitation to play in the 2019 SoFi Hawaii Bowl.
Cougar players had gotten some “#ExtendKalani” T-shirts and were waving them around for the cameras during the bowl invitation ceremony. BYU director of athletics Tom Holmoe borrowed one from a player, then used it in the locker room.
Holmoe pulled off his suit jacket to reveal one of the “#ExtendKalani” shirts and then told the Cougar players that Sitake is their head coach going forward. The contract extension was officially signed two days later, giving Sitake the position through 2023.
2. Back-to-back OT stunners
With 22 seconds left in BYU’s road game at Tennessee, the Cougars appeared doomed to open the 2019 season with two straight losses. Trailing 16-13 at its own 18-yard line, BYU needed a miracle.
It came in the form of Micah Simon breaking free deep down the sideline, a game-tying field goal by Jake Oldroyd and then an overtime win when Ty’Son Williams powered into the end zone.
A week later, the Cougars would again need a big play in overtime as they hosted No. 24-ranked USC. Leading by 3, BYU’s defense couldn’t let the Trojans get in the end zone or the Cougars would lose. This time, it was a defensive stop — and interception by Dayan Ghanwoloku — that secured the win for BYU.
3. Offensive backfield carousel
How tough was it for the Cougars to find continuity in the offensive backfield? Almost impossible.
During 2019, BYU had four quarterbacks throw at least 12 passes (Zach Wilson, Jaren Hall, Baylor Romney and Joe Critchlow) and had six different running backs have at least 17 carries (Lopini Katoa, Ty’Son Williams, Emmanuel Esukpa, Sione Finau, Tyler Allgeier and Jackson McChesney).
Injuries made the Cougar backfield into an almost constant game of musical chairs as BYU attempted to get guys prepared for different roles. The plus side was that a lot of players got experience and chances to show their abilities.
4. Good and bad in regional rivalries
After two straight years of losing all of the regional rivalry matchups, it was a step in the right direction to see the Cougars get the upper hand again.
The most impressive win was seeing BYU with a decimated offensive line and a third-string quarterback upset No. 14-ranked Boise State in Provo, using a fourth-down scrum play run by Austin Kafentzis to secure the 28-25 win.
The Cougars then crushed Utah State in Logan, 42-12, to win back the Old Wagon Wheel for the first time since 2016.
The flip side, however, was that BYU’s woes against rival Utah continued as the Cougars lost, 30-12, in Provo to start the season.
5. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
Losses at Toledo, South Florida, San Diego State and Hawaii in the 2019 SoFi Hawaii Bowl were the types of games that had Cougar fans pulling their hair out in frustration.
In all four contests, missed field goals, defensive breakdowns at inopportune times and failure to convert in the red zone turned what could’ve been victories into disappointing defeats.
6. Coverage, coverage — and more coverage
The theme for the BYU defense in 2019 was surprisingly passive as the Cougars elected to consistently drop eight players into pass coverage while rushing just three.
At times it worked well, resulting in interceptions when opposing quarterbacks didn’t account for all of the defenders.
Other times, however, opponents found lots of running lanes or patient quarterbacks would just take their time waiting for a receiver to find a hole.
7. Continuing growing pains
Since building depth has been a huge priority, the BYU football team once again sent a lot of freshmen and sophomores onto the field during the 2019 season.
Many had moments of brilliance, making big plays as well as consistent contributions. The drawback, of course, was that there were also miscues that opponents were able to exploit.
At some point, the experience of the young players should pay big dividends for the Cougars as they mature — but that can’t happen soon enough for the BYU faithful.
8. Topsy-turvy turnovers
When it came to ball security in 2019, sometimes the ball bounced BYU’s way — and sometimes it didn’t.
In the six Cougar losses, BYU lost the turnover battle 14-7 and gave up 42 more points off of turnovers than they gained.
In the seven Cougar wins, BYU won the turnover battle 15-7 and scored 49 more points off of turnovers.
Pretty easy to see the correlation, isn’t it?
9. Limited coaching staff changes
The Cougars only had one change on the coaching staff in 2019 as Eric Mateos came in to replace Ryan Pugh as the coach of the offensive line.
There are still a couple of days for that to change before the new year arrives, but BYU might elect to bet on the benefits of continuity instead of rolling the dice on making big changes.
That won’t make the more-vocal coaching-change advocates happy, but either way only time will tell whether that was the right move or not.
10. Stadium experience evolution
LaVell Edwards Stadium was upgraded during the offseason as platforms linking the upper concourses were installed, as were more restroom facilities.
BYU also added the “Cougar Canyon” pregame area as it tried to do more to enhance the game-day experience for the more the 50,000 people who came to Provo to watch the Cougars in action.