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1-3 BYU trying to find its identity heading into bye week

PROVO — For the second year in row, BYU has opened its season with a 1-3 record. But right now there are even bigger concerns for the Cougars.

No. 10 Wisconsin thumped BYU last Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, 40-6, and the Cougars are heading into a much-needed bye week to regroup.

BYU is suffering a major identity crisis on both sides of the ball. Against the Badgers, the Cougars failed to score a touchdown and picked up just 192 yards of total offense. In his first career start, replacing an injured Tanner Mangum, sophomore quarterback Beau Hoge completed 11 of 20 passes for 111 yards.

Freshman running back Ula Tolutau ran 13 times for 58 yards, though 46 of those yards came in the first quarter.

Defensively, BYU surrendered 491 yards of total offense and allowed quarterback Alex Hornibrook to complete 18 of 19 passes for 256 yards and four touchdowns.

“I still don’t know what our identity is on offense,” said coach Kalani Sitake. “Defensively, I’m really disappointed in the mistakes that we had. I thought the (defensive backs) covered well until this game.”

“I feel like we still don’t have an identity,” said linebacker and team captain Butch Pau’u. “We’ve allowed some good teams to score points on us but we feel like they shouldn’t have scored that many points. We allow too many rushing yards. We allow too many passing yards. We have to figure that out.”

BYU hasn’t started a season 1-4 since 2010, when Utah State handed the Cougars their fourth consecutive loss that year, in Logan.

And Logan is where BYU will try to end its three-game losing streak — against the Aggies on Sept. 29.

“The bye comes at a good time. We have to evaluate some things,” Sitake said. “We have a lot more games left in the season. We’ve got to find ways to win games.”

The Cougars haven’t beaten an FBS opponent this season after losses to Louisiana State, Utah and Wisconsin.

When BYU started 1-3 last season, it fell to Utah, UCLA and West Virginia in consecutive weeks after opening with a win over Arizona. The Cougars lost those three games by a combined total of seven points.

Asked if this 1-3 start feels different from last year’s, Sitake replied, “Yeah, because those three were close games.”

BYU got trounced by LSU and Wisconsin by a combined score of 67-6. The Cougars have scored only two touchdowns in three games against FBS opponents.

“We’ve got to get into the end zone,” Sitake said. “We’ve got to go to work. We have a free week and we have to take advantage of that time. More than anything, we’re not playing as good as I think we should be.”

Last week, offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said he was looking forward to the bye week.

“The bye week will be nice because you can sit back and evaluate and really focus on maybe what we’re doing good and what we’re not doing good and throw those things out and accentuate the positive,” he said. “It will be nice to have that next week where we can self-evaluate and figure out where we go after this week. That’s our job and that’s what we’re here to do.”

The Cougars are facing another tough stretch of games following the bye week. After traveling to Logan, they host Boise State and then visit Mississippi State, which crushed LSU 37-7 in Starkville last Saturday.

For now, BYU has to worry about USU, which is coming off a 46-10 loss at Wake Forest last Saturday. The Aggies (1-2) travel to San Jose State (1-3) this weekend.

“It’s a great time during a bye week for us to improve and find a way to get better and find a way to win the next game against Utah State,” said wide receiver Micah Simon. “We’ve got to focus on the little things and try to understand why we’re struggling and be ready for Utah State in two weeks.”