Tampa, Fla. • BYU hoped to use the bye week leading up to the South Florida game to regroup and rest up, but isnow more beaten up than ever — physically and mentally — having lost their third straight game, 27-23, against the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium on Saturday.
Just like after the Toledo game, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said they’re going to re-evaluate everything and see where they can make adjustments.
“This is not the type of defense that I expect from our guys and from our staff, so there has to be a huge area of improvement,” Sitake said. “I thought it was supposed to be from last week, from last game to now. So, that’s something that, obviously, I need to be really on top of.”
But it wasn’t just the defense — Sitake said the team struggled on all three phases of the game.
Even though the offense had more total yards (439) than USF (245) and more total plays (89 compared to USF’s 58), the Cougars failed to get the win.
The Bulls outscored BYU 20-7 in the second half in mounting their comeback.
“We talked about scoring more and getting more touchdowns and those things didn’t happen,” Sitake said.
So, now everything is up in the air for the fourth-year head coach. And it’s going to continue to rely on the team’s depth.
Dayan Ghanwoloku wasn’t available for the game due to an injury. Sitake said they had hoped the bye week would help the senior defensive back recover, but come game-time, he wasn’t available.
The Cougars also relied on third-string players at quarterback and right tackle.
Jaren Hall, who got his first career start, was pulled out in the fourth quarter due to concussion-like symptoms. The mission-returned freshman took over at QB at the end of the Toledo game when Zach Wilson suffered a fractured thumb.
This time, Baylor Romney stepped in.
At right tackle, Keanu Saleapaga got injured in the third quarter. His replacement, Thomas Shoaf, then got injured himself in the fourth quarter. Shoaf eventually went back in, only to be injured a second time.
A couple of linemen were also injured toward the end of the game, and offensive linemen Kieffer Longson and Tristen Hoge didn’t even make the trip.
“It’s football,” Sitake said. “We talked about depth the entire season, so we’re going to test the depth. We had to test it in this game and we had to test it last week. We’ve had to test our depth all year long. It’s the game of football. It’s really physical, guys get hurt. … Now we’re going to be able to test a lot more than we even anticipated.”
After the game, Lopini Katoa was visibly upset with the outcome, but he said he’s going to use those emotions to help him prepare for Boise State next week.
“To me, this just kind of lights a fire inside. Monday is when the game is completely in the past, but it’s still there. It’s a fire inside of me — I’m going to practice harder, I’m going to do little things better this week so I don’t have the same issues this next week. It just lights a fire in me and I know all the team feels the same way.”