Everybody loves Kalani Sitake.
His players love him, the fans love him, especially when the Cougars pull off huge wins. Hell, I love him, too. He’s a nice man, a good guy, a big ol’ huggable teddy bear, and the right coach for the BYU job, even though at times it doesn’t quite look that way. The question remains: Does Tom Holmoe — and the AD’s board of superiors — love him?
Beats me. Maybe they don’t know, yet, either.
Sitake says he coaches better and his team plays better when their backs are against the wall, when they have a chip on their shoulders, that he likes operating in tight spaces, and that he hopes to create and accentuate those uncomfortable conditions for his players and himself through the rest of the season.
Well … we’re here to help.
Let’s take a look at the schedule moving forward and start loading up that chip, shoving those backs, tightening those spaces. For a team that’s currently 3-4, having already lost to outfits like Toledo and South Florida, this should be a breeze.
• Oct. 26: Bye week. In Sitake’s tenure at BYU, he has a losing record — 1-3 — after a week off, and that pretty much sucks, considering the extra time to prepare. In previous seasons, Sitake’s Cougars lost to Utah State and Northern Illinois and beat Cincinnati after byes. As mentioned, a couple of weeks ago, BYU lost to South Florida. Since it is a coaching staff’s job to prepare its players, and the head coach’s responsibility to ensure that his team is ready to perform at a precise, peak level with extra time, Sitake has messed this up. He needs to do what he’s failed to do in the past — use this week not to coast and not to allow casualness and sloppiness and laziness to rule the days, rather to swing the hammer, to utilize it in an extraordinarily insecure, paranoid, dissatisfied, jumpy, irritable, dictatorial, optimal, maniacal, winning way. That’s what great coaches do.
• Nov. 2: at Utah State. Tight end Matt Bushman calls this what it is, what it has turned back into after years of lopsided disrepair — a rivalry game. And since the Aggies have defeated BYU the last two times they’ve played, it shouldn’t take much for the Cougars to feel disrespected, edging toward feeling inferior. In last year’s game, on its home field, BYU got spanked, 45-20, yielding what has become a problem for the Cougars in their recent losses — 223 rushing yards, while they themselves rolled up a mere 39 yards on the ground. The raucous crowd in Logan will aid them in their yearning for additional pressure.
• Nov. 9: Liberty. These teams have never met on the football field before, but, oh, what a battle in heaven they could wage. Jerry Falwell Jr. has it in his mind and soul to make Liberty the largest, greatest, most dominant, most Republican religion-based university on God’s green earth. Um … you’re up, prayers up, BYU. The school in Virginia even has an Honor Code that not only prohibits premarital sex and use of alcohol and tobacco, it disallows visiting members of the opposite sex to be alone and prohibits students from attending dances. Don’t even ask about LGBTQ issues. Surrounding themselves in narrowly defined purity and righteousness is their reason for living, breathing, passing, tackling. Come on, Cougars, who do these folks think they are? God’s favored? Deity’s elite? The Lord’s university?
• Nov. 16: Idaho State. BYU can go ahead and offload its chip for this one week. The Cougars couldn’t lose this game if they canceled practices through the entire run-up, had to play without pads and helmets and shoes, charged the marching band’s leader with calling the plays, and suspended the entire Honor Code on the eve of the game, allowing the players to party to the dark side of their hearts’ content.
• Nov. 23: at UMass. Isn’t this the bunch that just two years ago embarrassed BYU at LaVell’s place, disgracing in defeat to such a sad-and-sorry opponent not only the legendary coach’s name, but the program as a whole? It remains Sitake’s worst defeat. The stats were pretty even in that game, which was abhorrent enough for the Cougars, but they also suffered four interceptions. They were shut out by the Minutemen during the first half and managed at the end all of 10 points. Even though BYU bounced back last season to beat UMass, can a loss against this team ever be fully avenged? The Cougars’ chip here should be the size of Mount Augustus.
• Nov. 30: at San Diego State. Going back to the old WAC and Mountain West days, when BYU used to put, like, 60 points a game on SDSU, and keep bombing away straight into the last minute, the Aztecs have always hated the Cougars. Remember those old basketball games when the entire student body used to dress up like LDS missionaries and then do unspeakable, unprintable things with blowup dolls, and such? And administrators at the school used to rip the hell out of BYU, saying it was a pain in the butt as a league mate, telling other conferences never to consider inviting the Cougars in? Even worse, didn’t the Aztecs recently call Sitake’s family members nasty names, adding that BYU should never extend his contract? Oh, maybe not.
Either way, that should provide the Cougars and their head coach all the chips and dips, all the tight spaces they need to perform not in the foggy, miserable manner they did against Utah, Washington, Toledo and USF, but rather with the focus and ferocity they conjured against Tennessee, USC and Boise State.
We’re doing what we can for you, Kalani. You’re welcome.
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Jake Scott weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.