Provo • Sunday was a day of rest, relaxation and celebration for the BYU football team after it opened the 2018 season with a somewhat unexpected 28-23 victory over an Arizona team that many believe will make a run at the Pac-12 South Division title this fall.
Labor Day was a day of work.
“We just pat ourselves on the back and move on,” coach Kalani Sitake said at his Monday news conference. “We’re done [celebrating]. Now let’s get going on to the next week.”
Sitake spent very little time recapping the big win, but did lament the 10 penalties, including three pass interference penalties and a personal foul, that all led in some way to the Wildcats’ three touchdowns and field goal.
“It was a good opportunity, a good learning moment for us,” he said. “The fact that we got a win is a huge positive.”
Linebacker Butch Pau’u, who was part of a defense that held Heisman candidate Kahlil Tate to 14 net rushing yards, agreed with the head coach.
“We had too many penalties and they got too many free yards because of that,” Pau’u said.
Meanwhile, linebackers coach Ed Lamb took issue with media reports that Arizona coaches didn’t give Tate enough opportunities to play to his strength, which is running the football.
“It’s absurd … [observers] need to go back and watch the video,” Lamb said on his “Coordinators’ Corner” show. “They ran more than 40 plays where he was designed to keep the ball.”
Early Monday, a holiday for most people, BYU coaches were already studying game film of California’s 24-17 win over North Carolina and devising a plan of attack for the Bears.
“We won the game. We are happy. But now we are right back to work,” Sitake said. “This is a good holiday for everybody else, but not for us. … All we can focus on is trying to get this one, and it starts with the preparation today. And I think that will give us our confidence going into Saturday.”
The Cougars came out of the opener in Tucson with no major injuries. Cornerback Beau Tanner did not play against the Wildcats due to an injury he suffered in practice earlier in the week, but “we think he is going to be 100 percent” and should be able to play Saturday, Sitake said.
Tanner played receiver last year, but earned a spot as the starting nickel back in camp and should give the secondary more depth.
“I was pleased with the young guys that got in,” Sitake said, referencing the play of cornerbacks Keenan Ellis and D’Angelo Mandel (previously known as D’Angelo Gunter). “We had a lot of young players contribute in this win. And that’s good for us. I think we can keep adding more of the young guys as we go along.”
As for facing the Bears, Sitake said he is familiar with many of Cal’s coaches, including head coach Justin Wilcox, and knows the Bears will be a tough opponent.
“They will be ready. It will be a fun game,” he said. “So we are looking to prepare this week and get ready for their best shot. We will see what happens Saturday night.”
Sitake said Cal and Arizona have a lot of similarities, especially speed on defense and plenty of playmakers on offense. The Bears used three quarterbacks against UNC, so BYU will have to prepare for all three, he said.
“It is going to be harder. It was hard to go 1-0, it is going to be harder to go 2-0. We expect that,” Sitake said. “So we are going to put forth the work. They know a lot about what we do on offense now, where there were a lot of questions [before]. We know what they do, and so now we move on to the next phase.”
Kickoff is at 8:15 p.m. MDT and the game will be televised by ESPN2.
“There is a lot of excitement, a lot of energy, for this game, and just for 65,000 people to be there cheering us on,” Pau’u said.
California at BYU, 8:15 p.m. MDT