BYU football on track for first losing season since 2004

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Coach Kalani Sitake reacts during BYU’s 33-17 loss at East Carolina. It was the team’s seventh-consecutive loss of the season. (BYU Photo)

The BYU football team lost to East Carolina 33-17 on Saturday, Oct. 21, in a battle between two of the worst teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The loss guarantees BYU its first losing regular season since 2004, when the team went 5-6 in coach Gary Crowton’s final year at BYU.

“This is not the type of way that we play that I think exemplifies what I’m about,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “That’s my fault. I’ve expressed my concerns to the coaches and to our staff and asked the players to just keep buying into our culture and buying into our team, and we’ll see if the results are any different this week.”

The team’s 1-7 start is the worst since 1968; the Cougars also opened 1-7 that season and finished seventh in the WAC with a 2-8 record.

What happened to the Cougars, who couldn’t score more than 20 points against a Pirates defense that, on average, gave up 50 points and 600 yards of offense per game?

A historically bad offense

BYU is averaging 12.1 points per game, which ranks 128th out of 130 FBS teams.

The Cougars’ are on pace to score 157 points this season, which is 39 points lower than the current BYU record for fewest points scored in a season (196). That mark was set in 2003 and the team only played 12 games that year.

Beyond that, the offense is averaging fewer yards per game (265) than any season since 1975 (314.6–2003) and projected to finish with the lowest total offensive yard total, which was set in 11 games in 1997 (3,692).

If the averages hold, it will also be the lowest rushing and passing yards per game totals in team history.

Quarterback Tanner Mangum’s season efficiency has finally risen above 100 to 106 after going 26-for-41 with 319 yards, two touchdowns and one interception against ECU.

A question that made the rounds on social media asked why BYU hasn’t played quarterback Joe Critchlow more after burning the freshman’s redshirt against Boise State?

Beau Hoge is still questionable after being injured against Utah State, leaving Critchlow as the go-to backup quarterback for the time being.

Defense bent and finally broke

Things are looking grim for the defense too, after a stalwart opening to the season.

BYU is giving up 28 points per game, which is tied with 2002 for fourth-worst in team history.

Also, the average of 396 offensive yards allowed per game will lead to the third-worst total all-time if things don’t improve.

Also, BYU’s offense averages 26 minutes of possession, which ranks 122nd in the country.

Moving forward

Saturday will feature two 1-7 teams when San Jose State visits Provo for the 18th meeting between the schools.

The Spartans hold a 10-7 lead in the all-time series, but BYU won the last meeting in 2015.

“We have a lot to prove and a lot to improve on,” Sitake said. “I’m just glad we have another opportunity this week.”

One team will earn its first win over an FBS program; BYU defeated FCS team Portland State 20-6 in week one and the Spartans beat FCS opponent Cal Poly 34-13 in week two.

San Jose State’s defense checks in at 119th nationally, allowing over 41 points per game and 480 yards per game.

Offensively, the Spartans average 16.4 points and 330 yards per game.

Despite the poor performance against ECU, BYU’s offense will another chance to get things rolling against a sub-100 defense while the Cougars’ defense will need to keep the Spartan offensive in check.

“The goal is to be as aggressive as we can and develop an identity as a team,” Sitake said. “I’m just sick of excuses … It’s fight or flight time, and I want to fight.”

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