Provo • When a starting quarterback competition goes into the final week of preseason camp, questions are naturally going to arise when the player who gets the nod struggles in the first few games of the season.
Especially when one of those games is a loss.
On the heels of last Saturday’s 21-18 loss to California in which BYU quarterback Tanner Mangum completed just 22 of 41 passes and was intercepted twice, coach Kalani Sitake fielded a question in his Monday news conference about whether he considered a change during the game.
Did coaches think about giving freshman Zach Wilson — whom Mangum beat out for the starting job a week before the opener at Arizona — a shot when the offense was struggling in the third and fourth quarters?
“I don’t know,” Sitake said, somewhat dodging the question. “We look at different positions. I don’t look at personnel groups right away. I am looking at why we are not clicking as a unit, as an offense and a defense. We are always evaluating how we can get the best athletes in the best position for us to win. That’s all I care about. That’s what we are going to do this week, and we will see what happens on Saturday.”
Immediately after the loss to the 2-0 Bears, Sitake said Mangum’s performance “has got to be better,” but noted that receivers dropping at least three passes didn’t help.
Asked again about Mangum’s performance on Monday, the third-year coach clarified himself.
“It was not good enough from everybody,” Sitake said. “I mean, it wasn’t just one guy. Everyone is being evaluated on this team, at their position. Our job as coaches is to make sure we have the right guys in the right positions to make plays, and he is no different. So everyone is being evaluated, and we need to be [accountable].”
Mangum played reasonably well in the 28-23 win over Arizona in the opener, completing 18 of 28 passes for 209 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. But against Cal’s superior defense, he reverted back to the same mistakes he made last season.
“We all need to do a better job as a program to win games,” Sitake said. “That’s what it comes down to. The players make plays, but the coaches can put them in position to do better as well.”
Mangum was injured and didn’t play in last year’s 40-6 loss to Wisconsin at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The Cougars (1-1) travel to Madison for a rematch with the No. 6-ranked Badgers on Saturday in a 1:30 p.m. MDT clash to be televised regionally by ABC. Sitake acknowledged that another subpar performance won’t get it done against one of the top teams in the country.
“I don’t know that I set a standard on how many yards we throw for, or how many yards we run for,” he said. “We just need to be efficient on every play. So, if you are looking at yards per play — it wasn’t good enough. That comes down to a lot of different factors. So, we are not going to blame it on one person. There is enough blame to go around. Coaches and players included.”
Junior tight end Moroni Laulu-Pututau turned some heads in the postgame news conference Saturday when he said the Cougars “didn’t lose the game today, I feel like we lost it three days ago in preparation, in practice.” Laulu-Pututau went on to say the defense had “really good practices this week” but the offense did not.
“Wednesday was kind of a lull,” he said. “We didn’t have enough leaders step up in practice to get us ready for [Saturday].”
Asked about those comments Monday, Sitake said he didn’t believe practices were subpar and surmised that Laulu-Pututau was “speaking for himself specifically and individually.”
“I thought we had good preparation all week on all three phases,” Sitake said. “It just wasn’t good enough.”
Special teams coach and linebacker coach Ed Lamb said during his “Coordinators Corner” show Monday morning that players took over the postgame meeting in the locker room, specifically offensive lineman Tristen Hoge, in a nice show of leadership and unity.
“They put it on themselves — everybody taking accountability — offense, defense, special teams,” Lamb said.
Sitake said he appreciated the display of leadership because he was late getting to the locker room.
“It was cool, it was really good,” Sitake said. “That’s the leadership that we talked about, to have these guys hold each other accountable. But I think it was more just guys knowing that it was an opportunity that they missed.”
BYU AT NO. 6 WISCONSIN
When • Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT
TV • Ch. 4