Provo • Handling prosperity and success well has not been a strength of the BYU football team in coach Kalani Sitake’s past two seasons.
Saturday’s deflating 7-6 loss to Northern Illinois dropped BYU’s record to 1-6 in games following a victory, not counting last year’s season-ending win over Hawaii, which was followed by the season-opening win at Arizona with a revamped offensive coaching staff.
That’s not good. And it is wildly inconsistent, which was the theme of Sitake’s weekly press briefing Monday as the Cougars (4-4) began preparations to take on 6-2 Boise State on Saturday at Albertsons Stadium (8:15 p.m. MDT, ESPN2).
“We need to be more consistent as a team,” Sitake said. “That’s my job as head coach — to find ways to be more consistent.”
Assistant head coach Ed Lamb rightfully pointed out on his “Coordinators Corner” program Monday that a 1-6 record after wins is not a surprising statistic for a .500 team, which is what the Cougars are in the Sitake era. The loss to NIU dropped the coach’s overall record to 17-17.
BYU AT BOISE STATE
When • Saturday, 8:15 p.m. MDT
At least that’s consistent. Consistently mediocre.
“Any criticism is justified and legitimate,” Lamb acknowledged, and Sitake shouldered the blame and took responsibility for another loss on Monday, just as he has done the past three years.
“What I need to do as a head coach is find a way to get our team to be consistent, because we have really good players, and they do everything we ask them to do,” Sitake said. “They work hard. So, really, I need to do a better job of making sure our team, our program, and our results are more consistent on the field and give us a better chance for success.”
Later in Monday’s 12-minute question-and-answer session in which he said the word “consistent” or a derivative thereof no fewer than 17 times, Sitake said the failure to post consecutive wins is his fault. He even joked that he should “bring a banner” to his weekly meeting with reporters saying as much.
“And you guys can read it and that is going to be the answer to every question that you ask me,” he said.
The only time BYU has followed a win with another within the same season the past two years was the 30-3 triumph over FCS foe McNeese after the 24-21 win over then-No. 6 Wisconsin.
“I understand the frustrations that are out there from fans. The expectations are valid,” Sitake said. “So my focus entirely is on trying to find a way to keep our team consistent and get the results that we need and the results I think our players deserve.”
A win over the 6-2 Broncos, who are 4-0 all-time against BYU on the blue turf, would go a long way in winning back those fans, many of whom stayed away from LaVell Edwards Stadium on a perfect autumn afternoon. Announced attendance was 51,084, but the 63,725-seat stadium appeared only two-thirds to three-quarters full.
“This is a big game. Boise State is a great team,” said sophomore linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi. “I have been able to study them this past weekend, and look at the opponents they’ve played and how they’ve played them. This is a big-time game. Obviously, it is not the Utah-BYU rivalry. But to us and to me, this is a big rivalry game. It is a huge game that we have got to win. They have got us the past couple years, so this is a game that we have got to play well in. We’ve got to compete. Hopefully we come out with a win and yeah, we will see.”
Kaufusi, tight end Matt Bushman and receiver Micah Simon all said Monday that practices after wins are similar to practices after losses. Bushman said the Cougars don’t get overconfident or lackadaisical after wins, as some have suggested.
“The motivation is always there,” Bushman said. “With this coaching staff, we are always working. It doesn’t matter if we won or lost. You can’t get complacent. … Coach Sitake just told us not to point fingers. We just need to be the dominant team that we can be. When we are all playing as well as we can, offense, defense, special teams, we are a good team like we saw a couple weeks ago against Hawaii.”
Simon said that Sitake “puts a lot of the blame on himself, but at the end of the day, we are the ones out there playing, and we are the ones that have to make the plays happen. As a captain, and other captains, we take it upon ourselves. It is our team and we have to lead our guys and make sure the confidence is still high so everybody can go out there and play loose and play free and make plays.”
And maybe, put together a modest winning streak. But with these guys, that would be inconsistent.