Kalani Sitake’s BYU Cougars dominate the Utah State Aggies. Now it’s time to extend his contract
After losing to Washington, Toledo and South Florida, his team could have gone a lot of directions. But it followed his example and just worked harder.
Kalani Sitake’s postgame bear hug with Gary Andersen had to be a little harder for one of his many mentors, the man who gave him his first coaching job at Southern Utah so long ago.
In a desperate post-South Florida rally of BYU’s 2019 injury-plagued season, Sitake watched his team end a two-game Utah State win streak over the Cougars late Saturday night by blowing out the Aggies 42-14 in Maverik Stadium.
It was BYU’s follow-up act after upsetting 14th-ranked Boise State in Provo. The 639 yards gained on the reeling Aggies are the most ever produced by a BYU offense in the Sitake era. Now 4-4, the win sets the Cougars up for a bowl game if two victories can be achieved against Liberty, Idaho State, UMass and San Diego State. Before kickoff, BYU’s strength of schedule was the seventh toughest in the nation.
This brings up a key question. Has Sitake done enough in 2019 to warrant a contract extension?
The answer is simple: yes.
It may not come this week or even this month, but it should be done. It would greatly help in recruiting if the school gave him a vote of confidence sooner rather than later because opponents would love to use that against him with high school and junior college prospects.
The win has to push BYU’s pen closer to the Sitake extension paper.
It has been an up-and-down inconsistent season. But 2019 also produced the first two wins over ranked teams in Provo for the first time ever.
Sitake made very tough decisions the past two years, some of them public, many of them private. He’s had to deal with administrative challenges beyond his control, yet his loyalty has never wavered. Off the field, he’s taken the steps BYU’s rigorous rules demand of its coaches. On the field, he’s shuffled players and staff, reorganized approaches, emotionally challenged those needing a push and tried to wring the last drop of production from an injured and battered roster that just went through five quarterback changes since the trip to Toledo.
His players believe in him.
The most impressive thing has been his indefatigable energy and positive attitude. After losing to Washington, Toledo and South Florida, his team could have gone a lot of directions. But it followed his example and just worked harder.
Saturday night, BYU’s defense forced five USU turnovers and the offense scored a season-high 42 points despite two turnovers inside USU’s 20.
Freshman Jaren Hall left the game at halftime in his comeback debut following a concussion at South Florida after taking a hit to the helmet on a TD-scoring run. He was 12 of 16 for 214 yards through the air and ran for another 54 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshman third-string QB and Boise State slayer Baylor Romney replaced Hall to start the second half and promptly led the Cougars to a crucial touchdown to make a 21-14 lead 28-14, then helped double that scoring total. He finished 10 of 16 for 191 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. His efficiency rating was 191.5.
Romney played with ice in his veins.
BYU entered the USU game with just 25 offensive plays over 20 yards through seven games. Against the Aggies, BYU had 10 pass plays over 20 yards and one run over 20.
This, while playing with second- and third-stringers at QB, running back and on the offensive line.
That BYU’s offensive staff did this while changing the offense, shuffling in new players and changing the ever-important QB position multiple times is a significant “settling” down of so many of the matrix points in football. Impressive.
Saturday night BYU had more yards after the catch, more successful screen plays, more big plays than any game this season. Perhaps the offense has found its stride, albeit late in the season.
The five takeaways was a season best. And a team that had been horrible in the fourth quarter looked just the opposite this night. That is reflective of Sitake’s leadership, just like it is when he accepted blame in frustrating losses this season.
While BYU’s defense yielded 521 yards and made some fans pull out their hair for not pressuring USU’s Jordan Love more, the strategy did produce interceptions and fumbles and shut out the Aggies in the second half, the first time that was done by BYU’s defense with any team this season.
The Old Wagon Wheel made its way back to Provo.
And it was rolling downhill all the way.
Sitake? Ink him.
It’s the right thing to do.