PROVO — The reasons — or excuses, if you prefer the harsh stance — have flowed freely for BYU’s struggles this season, ranging from the typical young and inexperienced to the usual rationale of citing injuries.
In starting 1-5, coach Kalani Sitake had correctly called out the offense for its inability to score touchdowns. In turn, offensive coordinator Ty Detmer had pointed to having to count on recently returned missionaries and even lamented the lack of height among the receivers.
Sitake is a straight shooter, willing to speak his mind at the expense of his players. He did as much after the latest loss to Boise State in which the offense scored only one touchdown and quarterback Tanner Mangum threw two interceptions.
Mangum, who showed toughness in returning after missing nearly a month after suffering an ankle injury, bore the brunt of Sitake’s frustrations during his postgame press conference. The promise Mangum showed as a freshman two years ago seems like a distant memory.
“As the game went along we were making bad reads. The interceptions didn’t help,” Sitake said.
“I thought we had some open guys downfield and he threw it to the wrong guy, and they picked it. The second one, I believe, was kind of the same thing, just bad reads; I’m not really going to sugarcoat it — just not good enough.”
But on Monday, speaking at his weekly press conference, the second-year head coach changed his tune. Almost all of his comments were reflective and pointed inward.
The coaches, as he said repeatedly, are responsible for this mess. The five-game losing streak is the program’s longest since 1970.
“I don’t blame the players,” Sitake said. “They give us all the effort. Us as coaches got to get it done.”
This is absolutely true.
In the midst of this historic slump, for several reasons, it would not serve the program well to crack on the players anymore. They have been beat on enough, to the point of losing confidence, even if their public comments indicate otherwise.
In building a program, the coaching staff should deflect credit to the players for success and take the blame for failures. Remember, recruits and their parents are listening and watching intently.
“I’m going to hang it on me,” Sitake said. “The kids are doing everything we ask, but I’m not coaching them well enough. That’s what it comes down to.”
For sure, BYU has had plenty of issues that have hindered it from having success. The quarterback injuries — Mangum and Beau Hoge have missed games — obviously have hurt immensely.
The linebacker corps has also seen players shuffled in and out of the lineup. But, hey, this is a violent sport.
“Everybody has injured players,” Sitake said. “I’m not going to blame injuries on some of the issues we have.”
The problem is BYU’s offense didn’t even look good in the only win, which came against FCS opponent Portland State. Incidentally, Oregon State replaced coach Gary Andersen this week after the Beavers also started 1-5 with the only win against Portland State.
Even though his coaching background is on defense, Sitake has no problem taking ownership of all the struggles on offense. He has lamented after every loss that the offense has lacked an identity this season.
BYU football notes:
Not to say all the blame belongs to Sitake. As the leader of the offense, Detmer deserves his fair share.
To this point, the Heisman Trophy winner looks like a former high school coach with only 19 games of college experience. Particularly during interviews with BYU’s internal media, Detmer often cited various reasons for all the losing.
He needs to follow the boss’s lead in saying the lack of balance on offense is his fault.
“Right now we’re not doing anything really that’s good,” Sitake said. “The only thing we’re balanced at is being bad.”
Going forward, as the schedule becomes significantly easier, success should follow. Maybe then the players can gain confidence.
“There’s no quit in them,” Sitake said. “If there was, you’d see it on the field, and we’re not seeing it in practice. We’re seeing it in the games as far as effort and buy-in. What it comes down to is we’ve got to coach them up better.”