BYU football coach Kalani Sitake deflects question regarding possible interest in open coaching jobs

Sitake’s name has been mentioned as a potential candidate for the recent opening at the University of Washington.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitake takes the field as No. 10 Brigham Young University hosts Boise State at LaVell Edwards Stadium, Oct. 9, 2021.

BYU football coach Kalani Sitake has his team humming at the right time of the season. After a two-game losing streak a few weeks ago, the Cougars have now won three in a row and are No. 14 in the Associated Press college football rankings.

That success has led to speculation about Sitake’s job prospects outside of Provo.

In the last couple of days, Washington coach Jimmy Lake was fired from his job. That has some asking if Sitake could be the right man for the job.

But when asked Monday about his name being mentioned in media reports regarding the Washington opening, Sitake deflected as he has all season.

“I know why you guys are asking those questions and things like that, but I’m focused on getting our team ready or Georgia Southern and winning this game,” Sitake said. “That’s been my focus the entire season. Whether you ask that question back in August, September, October or now in November, the answer is still the same.

“I’m trying to take this thing week by week and focus on getting these guys to play at their best.”

In the last two seasons alone, Sitake has racked up a 19-3 record. Last year, the team finished 11-1 and won the Boca Raton Bowl over the University of Central Florida.

Sitake is signed with BYU through 2025 after receiving a contract extension in August.

BYU players echoed Sitake’s message about pontificating over anything outside of the football field.

“Really during the season, you just focus on the season and what you can control,” tight end Dallin Holker said. “You don’t really try to focus on, ‘Oh, maybe this guy is going to leave or maybe the coach is going to leave.’ You just really focus and try to live in the moment and enjoy the season.”

When asked if coaching speculation was a distraction or conversation in the locker room, linebacker Ben Bywater kept his answer related to football.

“I wish I could give you an answer, but we’re just kind of focusing this week on Georgia Southern and then USC and then just getting the best bowl game we can get possible,” Bywater said.

Neil Pau’u’s season in jeopardy after lower leg injury

The wide receiver who impressed during fall camp now might be lost for the season.

BYU junior Neil Pau’u won’t play Saturday at Georgia Southern after suffering a lower leg injury in the win over Idaho State. Cougars offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said last week the injury “doesn’t look good,” and coach Kalani Sitake said Monday that it will keep Pau’u out even after a bye week.

While Sitake did not say definitely whether Pau’u is lost for the season, the situation doesn’t seem promising in the near future with just two games left.

“We have to wait [and see] how the next week progresses, but I think it’s pretty sure he’s not going to play in this game and more likely not playing in the USC game as well,” Sitake said.

Pau’u is second on the Cougars with 526 receiving yards and leads the team with 46 catches. He has six touchdown receptions, which is also a team-high. Wide receivers Puka Nacua and Gunner Romney will likely see more throws from quarterback Jaren Hall.

“Neil is an amazing player,” Holker said. “He does a lot of great things for our team and he always has. It’ll be tough without him, but we have a good team and we’re really deep. So we’ll be able to just play our best and I feel like we’ll be good.”