These are sad, gloomy days at BYU, dragging by under gray-blue October skies.
Dark and morose times have descended, when people around the football program are wearing the darkest shades of blue, and even black, are marching in processionals to the sorrowful sounds of bagpipes playing in the distance, are reflecting in quiet, pained moments, searching for peace while pondering what’s happened here, questioning the meaning and very essence of life, wondering where the losing came from, why it is here and where it is going.
If it is going.
Winning is now the body lying in the suit, the dearly departed, a staple soul of the past having left the building and entire realm. The Cougars have lost six straight games, something that hasn’t occurred in a generation or two or three, since back in Great Grandpa’s day, may he rest in peace.
The tones were hushed, subdued, indeed, during this week’s football presser in the wake of BYU falling to Mississippi State, 35-10, the latest installment of defeat. People whispered when they asked questions, and respondents whispered back, not unlike they do while attending a viewing or a funeral. Even Kalani Sitake’s voice was sullen, low and earnest, wounded, as he took inquiries about his team’s well being or lack thereof after suffering so much loss.
Nobody was more sorry for his loss(es) than him.
Sitake was asked about the skid, asked about injuries, asked about defensive and offensive failings, asked about attitude, asked about roles of coaches, asked, essentially, about reasons for getting up in the morning, how he was getting by, how he was holding up. At one point he was asked, in so many words, if he, in his most mournful moments, had reached out for help from people on the outside — just as a means of, you know, going on.
“A lot of people have reached out to me,” he said. “… A lot of guys out there have given me words of encouragement. … We’re dealing with some things that are quite unique here.”
A dead passing game. A dead running game. A dead defense. And a fan base that wishes it were dead, not having seen such a cluster of defeat since … 1968.
There were no real answers coming from Sitake, or anyone else.
What do you say when your team’s only win came against a Big Sky opponent, when your offense can’t run or pass, and … well, nobody can figure out any other way to move the football?
What are the right words when your team ranks 118th in national passing offense, just four slots ahead of Air Force, 128th in scoring offense, 125th in rushing offense, 124th in passing yards per completion, 128th in total offense, 127th in time of possession, 121st in turnover margin?
And there are only 129 FBS teams.
You say what Kalani said — “We just have to play a lot better,” and “We did not make enough plays,” and “We just need to put more production on the field,” and “We need stuff to happen right away.”
And he added this: “We have not played a complete game as a team that was really great in all three phases. That’s my frustration. … It’s sad to say that at midseason.”
It’s gotten so dismal, so desperate, linebacker Butch Pau’u said some of his teammates openly cried in the locker room after BYU’s latest loss.
“We hate losing,” he said. “Everyone is sick and tired. … Things have to change. We have to play perfect.”
Maybe they’d settle for just kind of OK.
Defensive end Corbin Kaufusi said there is hope in coming games, calling the back half of the schedule a “new season.”
That’s one way of looking at it.
Another is to see it as a slate of empty, ghostly games against opponents that are even worse than BYU. All told, East Carolina, San Jose State, Fresno State, UNLV, UMass and Hawaii, are 11-29. ECU, San Jose and UMass are a combined 2-19. Fresno is the only remaining opponent with a winning record, at 4-2.
How much meaning, how much reward, how much life is there in beating outfits like that? More, apparently, than getting drilled by better teams.
Any win, Pau’u said, would “mean the world.”
He whispered when he said it.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.