PROVO — BYU head coach Kalani Sitake knows the effects of an emotional rivalry game on the upcoming weeks.
Sitake, who played fullback for the Cougars from 1997-2000, recalled several past editions of the “rivalry hangover” whenever BYU faced Utah on the gridiron. And he’s determined not to let it happen this year.
“I remember a lot of coaches calling it a rivalry hangover, because it takes a lot out of you,” Sitake said Monday after the Cougars’ 19-13 loss to the No. 24 Utes. “But you’ve got to move on. This is big-time football now. I’ve been part of teams that win and it hurts the next week — and teams that lose and it hurts the next week.”
There should be no excuse for a hangover in 2017, though; after the emotions of the 92nd overall meeting between BYU and Utah, the Cougars have an even taller task this Saturday: No. 10 Wisconsin arrives at LaVell Edwards Stadium for a 1:30 p.m. MDT kickoff on ABC and KSL Newsradio.
The Badgers (2-0) are making their first-ever visit to Provo, and their first trip west of Texas since a 32-30 loss at Arizona State in 2013.
“As much as the game hurt last week, it’s nice to have something to look forward to right away,” Sitake said. “But there are things that we need to address, and you can’t just skip over it.”
Among the biggest concerns is an offense that has averaged just 11 points per game — and 6.5 against FBS opponents. Losses to top-25 teams in the Utes and No. 12 Louisiana State help salve the sting — but there’s little doubt that changes are coming.
“Everything is open. The competition is alway open, and nothing is set in stone,” Sitake said. “Everything has to be competitive, and we’ll play the best guys depending on the opponent.
“Sometimes feelings get hurt; that’s part of the deal. If guys don’t want to compete, then don’t come here.”
Despite back-to-back losses, BYU (1-2) feels confident it can turn things around and salvage the season.
“Everyone knows that is a game we will never get back,” defensive end Corbin Kaufusi said of the loss to Utah. “But we’ve got to get our minds right, because we have another big game this week.”
Starting quarterback Tanner Mangum was seen limping off the field Saturday night after the loss, and his status was called into question.
Sitake said it’s too early to know if Mangum’s apparent ankle injury will cause him to miss some time. But he didn’t immediately rule out the possibility, either.
“Nothing is confirmed yet on injuries. Until we can get more confirmation, we don’t know,” he said. “It’s hard to get confirmation since we don’t do anything Sunday except go to church.”
Ty Detmer also addressed Mangum’s health on his weekly radio show.
“I think (Mangum is OK),” he said. “I know he was in Sunday getting some treatment.”
Beau Hoge is Mangum’s backup at quarterback, followed by fellow redshirt sophomore Koy Detmer Jr.
One of the bright spots of Saturday’s loss was the emergence of freshman running back Ula Toluta’u, who averaged 5 yards per carry and scored his first collegiate touchdown for BYU.
The former Wisconsin signee has a few fans playing on the offensive line in front of him, too.
“He makes us want to step up,” left tackle Thomas Shoaf said. “If we step up and get the first level, he’ll run the safety over — and see you on the other side.
“It’s not unique to him, but it’s definitely his strong suit.”