Coach Sitake optimistic after 21-18 loss to Bears

365

After an unexpected victory over the Arizona Wildcats last week, the Cougars dropped the ball this week against the University of California, Berkeley, and lost 21-18.

Although the Cougars were favored to win, they could not do enough in the second half to recover from the mistakes made early on.

Coach Kalani Sitake appeared calm and optimistic after the loss. In the postgame press conference, he talked about his feeling regarding the loss and how the team will bounce back in the future.

“The effort was there from our guys, just way too many errors,” Sitake said.

The Cougars fought until the very end of the game but did not do enough to secure a victory. After the win over Arizona, the Cougars received three votes in the AP Poll to be in the top 25. After this loss to California, BYU’s chance to be in the top 25 is much slimmer.

California is a Power Five team and went into the game against the Cougars 1-0 after a win over North Carolina. BYU’s schedule is strong enough to put the Cougars high up in the national rankings, but they will need to rebound from their loss against the Bears in order to progress nationally.

Although this loss for the Cougars resurfaced some of the 2017 woes, Sitake said early mistakes affected the overall tone and outcome of the game.

BYU’s first offensive drive was long and effective until Beau Hoge could not convert on fourth down.

The Cougars doubled all the Bears’ numbers in the first half except for the score. California’s lone score came off a blown assignment in the BYU secondary. California running back Patrick Laird caught a deep ball over the middle, giving California a 7-0 lead. BYU kicker Skyler Southam drilled a 36-yard field goal before the half to make the score 7-3.

Going into halftime, Sitake talked about the struggles on both sides of the ball and the Cougars’ two failed fourth down conversions. The Cougars attempted fourth down plays, and both of them fell short of the first down marker. Sitake said they would “continue to go for it on fourth down all game if necessary.”

After halftime, California came out with a quick score to make the game 14-3. California wide receiver Kanawai Noa scored on a 52-yard catch after getting past the BYU secondary on the sideline.

BYU defensive back Dayan Ghanwoloku scooped up a fumble and ran it for a touchdown thereafter, bringing the score to 14-10. Although this play provided a bit of life to the Cougars, they could not get the offense moving.

After the game, Sitake talked about the mistakes and how they affected the course of the game.

“I was proud of how hard they played. We just made way too many mistakes and didn’t have enough time to fix them by the end of the game,” Sitake said.

BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum looks to throw a pass against the Bears on Sept. 8, 2018. (Claire Gentry)

Although there were good moments in the game, the Cougars’ offensive and defensive lines were dominated, wide receivers dropped a significant amount of passes, quarterback Tanner Mangum could not connect with his receivers on passes over 15 yards, and the secondary continued to show weakness down the field.

The offensive line was the strong point of the BYU victory over Arizona last week, but they struggled to protect Mangum and open holes for the BYU running backs against the Bears.

The defensive line could not get pressure on California’s quarterbacks, and they consistently had sufficient time to make plays.

“We shouldn’t be making any of these mistakes and miscommunication on the field,” Sitake said. “So, we can’t give up layups. We can’t give up free points.”

Dropped passes proved to be a key downfall for the Cougars throughout the game. Wide receiver Dylan Collie dropped a perfect Mangum deep ball over the middle in the first half, leading to a punt. This play proved to set the tone for the rest of the game as the Cougars could not get anything finished offensively.

“We gave up a big touchdown on a missed assignment,” Sitake said. “It’s not on the players; it’s on us as coaches.”

The BYU secondary showed weakness with their penalties in the game against Arizona and against California due to several blown assignments and being consistently out of positions.

“I thought we could have played better in every phase of the game,” Sitake said. “As a head coach, I’ve got to make sure we put our guys in better positions so we can win games.”

The early mistakes engulfed the Cougars, but Sitake showed optimism in the effort and said he is looking forward to playing Wisconsin. In his post-game interview, he said his team will perform much better than last year’s 40-6 loss to the Badgers.

“It’s a hard task to go to Madison and play a really good team that’s physical, and that was a good reminder last year of how physical they played,” Sitake said of the Wisconsin Badgers. “It will be a good measurement to see how much we’ve improved from last year to this year.”

Sitake said the game against Wisconsin will prove how the Cougars face adversity and how they overcome it.

The Cougars will face off against the Badgers in Wisconsin on Saturday, Sept. 15 at 1:30 p.m. MST. Wisconsin is 2-0 going into the game against BYU.