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SALT LAKE CITY — The BYU football team lacks excuses or reasons now for another lackluster effort, not after that scintillating performance in the upset of nationally ranked Boise State.
A rash of injuries and prior inferior play, which contributed to disturbing losses to lesser programs, didn’t matter against Boise State. Being forced to use backups along the offensive line, in the backfield and at quarterback — where third-string Baylor Romney started – were not enough to derail the Cougars.
On the heels of three consecutive losses, including to Toledo and South Florida, BYU was deep in desperation mode. With coach Kalani Sitake’s job security hanging in the balance, a situation his players acknowledged during the week leading up to the game, BYU unleashed an aggressive brand of football not seen at that level this season.
For one game, the Cougars were courageous and inspired. Now that there’s evidence, they had better do it again this week against Utah State in Logan.
You remember Utah State, the program BYU used to drill repeatedly all those years, holding a 29-4 advantage in the series from 1975-2013. Yeah, well, not so much anymore.
The Aggies have won three of the last five meetings, including the last two consecutive games. They bring a multi-game winning streak into the series for the first time since 1973-74.
Nine consecutive losses to Utah is one thing, but falling behind Utah State on the in-state ladder is incomprehensible to BYU fans. To them, the Cougars had better not lose this game.
“Winning is really hard,” Sitake said during his weekly media session.
So is trying to find any sort of consistency from game to game. For the Cougars, the season to date is frustration and futility mixed in with joy and jubilation.
Instead of one step forward and one another backward, it’s been multiplied by two. Two overtime wins against Power Five programs Tennessee and USC were followed by a blowout loss to Washington, which was expected, and then bitter disappointments against Toledo and South Florida.
In a sense, handing Boise State its first and only loss so far this season added to the season’s lunacy. With five games remaining in the regular season, BYU has got to find some consistency.
No better time than this week against the Aggies, who are coming off an embarrassing 31-7 loss to Air Force. Fact is, with BYU coming off a bye week, losing to Utah State will only add to the madness of this season.
At 3-4, with five games remaining, BYU still has a chance to finish with a respectable 8-4 record. Good luck trying to predict the November results with this group.
“Every coach is trying to find a way to be great consistently,” Sitake said. “For us to be at that level has taken some time. You’re dealing with a lot of different factors that go into it. Right now, at this moment, it’s what every football coach is talking about: trying to find a way to perform at a high level and do it over and over, week to week.”
To Sitake’s credit, after the three consecutive losses, with the first of two bye weeks mixed in, he shook up the status quo. Going a month without a win was enough to make changes in coaching duties during the game.
Without a whole lot to lose, the offense hit on some trick plays that fired up the home crowd and, more importantly, worked. Offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, who coached from the field for the first time this season, attributed the difference to going one month without a win.
“College football is funny,” Grimes said during a radio interview with The Zone Sports Network. “The team that is most inspired to play often wins, or at least gives themselves a chance to win, sometimes even when they shouldn’t, on game day. I know that sounds crazy to people who haven’t been a part of the game, because you play 12 or 13 times during the college season. You think you’d be up to play every Saturday, but it doesn’t always happen that way.
“My goal — and I know Kalani’s goal — is to create a team that shows up every Saturday hungry to win. But we’re not quite there yet as a team. I think this next game in Logan will be a great opportunity and great test for us to show that we’ve matured enough to put two big games back to back.”