BYU’s offseason plan after dismal 4-9 season: Work, work and more work

Cougars hope to use 30-20 win over Hawaii as springboard into Sitake’s third year

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) BYU coach Kalani Sitake as BYU hosts the University of Massachusetts, NCAA football in Provo, Saturday November 18, 2017.

Honolulu • Usually, BYU’s football team takes a week off after its last regular-season game to heal up and await the naming of its opponent in a bowl game.

But this was not the usual year for the Cougars, who wrapped up their first losing season since 2004 with a dominating 30-20 win over Hawaii Saturday night in front of a rain-soaked crowd of 19,256 at Aloha Stadium.

The plan now is to immediately get to work to make sure the bowl drought remains at just one year, coach Kalani Sitake said after the Cougars essentially put some lipstick on the pig that was the 2017 campaign by racking up 451 yards and holding an also-hapless UH team to 286 yards.

“We will start right away and get in on Monday and get working, because we don’t have a bowl game to prep for so we will try to utilize as much time as we can from now until finals,” Sitake said.

The Cougars flew through the night to get back to Provo, and Sitake said he planned to use the six-hour journey to watch a lot of film and begin evaluating the program’s strengths and weaknesses. He spoke as if he doesn’t plan on making any immediate coaching changes, saying he “loves” his staff as currently constituted.

“I am going to look at everything and watch a lot of film and see [what the emphasis will be in the offseason],” he said. “I owe it to the fans and the players here to get this team right so it doesn’t happen again.

“The first year we went 9-4 and the second year we went 4-9, so we will see what we can do the third year,” he continued. “I am willing to, along with our coaching staff and our players, work as hard as we can and see what happens when we play Arizona next season.”

Asked what resources he needs to make the 2018 season more successful than his second season, Sitake demurred. Another bowl-less season could cost him his job, or at least put him on the hot seat.

“All I care about is I know what I have to do to make it work,” Sitake said. “That’s just how it works. I am not one to complain about anything. I just have to go to work and take whatever I got and make it happen.”

Obviously, offense is where the Cougars need the most work. Even after moving the ball almost at will against Hawaii and punting just twice, they finished 118th in total offense at 325.2 yards per game and 123rd in scoring offense at 17.1 points per game.

Defensively, BYU was better than average, ranking 48th in total defense and 49th in scoring defense.

Where BYU finished in NCAA football statistical rankings <br> Scoring offense: 123rd (17.1 ppg.) <br> Scoring defense: 49th (24.7 ppg.) <br> Total offense: 118th (325.2 ypg.) <br> Total defense: 48th (372.8 ypg.)

“The goal was to win this game for the seniors and get something we can build off of for next year,” Sitake said. “I thought a lot of young guys stepped up, so I am looking forward to working with those guys in the offseason.”

The Cougars finished the season without a senior scoring a single touchdown, so most or all of their firepower will presumably return. Whether that talent is good enough against the likes of Arizona, Cal, Wisconsin, Washington and Utah remains to be seen. They will lose three offensive linemen to graduation — Tuni Kanuch, Tejan Koroma and Keyan Norman — but are high on some of the reserves and transfers, guys such as Notre Dame transfer Tristen Hoge and backups James Empey, Kieffer Longson, Austin Chambers and Chandon Herring.

Freshman quarterback Joe Critchlow bounced back from a dismal showing in the 16-10 loss to UMass with a solid effort against the Warriors. He completed 14 of 23 passes for 166 yards and a touchdown to Neil Pau’u and did not throw an interception. He was sacked twice, including a play where he fumbled the ball right to a UH defender, who took it back 42 yards for a touchdown.

“I wish we would have had more seniors score this year, but I wish we would have won more games, too,” Sitake said. “Even with that, it will be nice to build off of this. We are going to go right to work. We have a team meeting on Monday and have offseason conditioning right away.”