Provo • Twenty-four hours.
That’s all the time BYU coach Kalani Sitake gives his players to celebrate a win or mourn a loss. Then it’s on to the next opponent.
Even though they had a bye week between games, BYU was already looking to their next opponents. The Cougars will play USF for the first time Saturday in Tampa.
The bye couldn’t have come at a better time.
The Cougars have lost their last two games, dropping to 2-3 on the season. Even though they put on a brave face, the frustrations were been building.
Defensive lineman Khyiris Tonga said every player has their own way of coping with a situation like the one they've found themselves in, but Sitake has also made sure they don't lose sight of who they are.
“We just try to be grateful for our family, for being there, for the fans, for those who came out and supported us,” Tonga said. “It's more important that we stay positive and worry about our roles outside of football, like being a student. Some of us are husbands, fathers. There's more to life than just focusing on the loss. That's something that Kalani has helped the team recognized, that we've been doing.”
BYU AT SOUTH FLORIDA
When • Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT
TV • CBS Sports Network
Other than trying to get their heads right, the Cougars haven’t done much different during their bye week as they would during a game week. But the break in action has allowed Jaren Hall to get more practice reps before stepping out onto the main stage.
Hall will get his first college career start in Tampa, after stepping in for Zach Wilson toward the end of the Toledo game.
Wilson suffered a thumb injury on his right (throwing) hand against the Rockets and underwent surgery last week. Sitake said the trainers have given him a “window” on Wilson’s return, but he did not elaborate further.
But really, Sitake said the team took advantage of the extra week to really work on all three phases of the game.
“We were able to get a lot of work done,” Sitake said. “We have a new quarterback. We have to get him ready, so we took advantage of that extra time. There's a lot of competition going on still on this team. So, trying to find ways to get our guys to execute on a higher level, that was our main focus this last week.”
The bye week was also the perfect opportunity to get in touch with the recruiting side of things. Sitake said the staff connected with the recruits they have committed and reached out to guys that might be harder to get.
“Working with that net and recruiting, we have to take advantage and go for guys that are hard gets,” Sitake said. “Ty’Son [Williams] wasn’t an easy one, as well. There’s recruits we can reach out to and keep working hard to get. And they can see the value of being here at BYU socially and academically, and spiritually as well.”
At the end of the day, starting running back Emmanuel Esukpa believes the bye week did nothing but help the team grow and prepare for USF.
And it might even give them the upper hand.
“They had to play a game that wasn’t us and we didn’t have anybody,” Esukpa said. “We started watching film early so we could get a jump on these guys.”