PROVO — Having suffered five consecutive losses, BYU is reeling amid a historically futile season.
For players, who are trying to end this dismal slump — the Cougars' first five-game losing streak in 47 years — it can be difficult to escape, and deal with, the pervasive negativity from outside the program, particularly on social media.
As BYU (1-5) prepares for a trip to Mississippi State on Saturday (10 a.m., MDT, SEC Network), it’s not easy staying positive.
“We’re always on our phones so we definitely see social media. It’s super hard,” said wide receiver Neil Pau’u. “Coach (Kalani) Sitake continues to remind us that a lot of people don’t know what’s going on inside the program. We know the work that we’ve put in. We’re desperately trying to win. We’re going out there with a mindset that we can compete with anyone.”
Senior defensive lineman Kesni Tausinga didn’t mince words when describing the season.
“I’m a senior. This is my fourth year. It’s the toughest season I’ve ever had,” he said. “It hurts. Losing hurts. It’s tough. We put so much into it. We worked hard all offseason. We played a hard game (in a 24-7 loss to Boise State last Friday). There was a lot of effort but too many mistakes. Our team feels that. We’re not playing to our potential and we’re making a lot of mistakes. We’re a better team than what our record shows and what the score shows. I feel like once we start to correct those things, it will start showing up.”
As a team captain, quarterback Tanner Mangum is doing what he can to keep the morale of his team up.
“You’ve just got to focus on the present. It can be very easy to dwell on the losses that we’ve had and feel sorry for ourselves,” he said. “It’s obviously a disappointing start to the season. Not what we expected. You’ve got to keep everyone focused on the next task at hand.
"We’ve got a lot of games left to play, starting right now with Mississippi State. We can’t worry about what happened. We’ve got to move on to the next one and do whatever we can to get better so we can give it our best shot on Saturday and then after that, on to (East Carolina).
"As long as we’re focusing on that, we’ll have a shot. But if we’re dwelling on the past or worrying about how tough we’ve had it or tough breaks, we won’t be as effective.”
Running back Trey Dye explained that it’s time for his team to start performing.
“There’s a lot of football left to play," he said. "Things may not be going so well right now. We realize that. I’m sure the fan base and everybody realizes that. It’s getting those guys on the field that are going to do something.
“There’s nowhere to hide. It’s right there. When I get up in the morning and come up here, you look in the mirror and you realize it," Dye continued. "Being 1-5 is not being 6-0. There is an urgency to everybody right now. Everybody is eager to get out there, to make plays and get better. (Monday) I think that as an offense, we did that.
"Everybody came in with the mindset that we do want to be better and getting it to click. I could sit here and talk about it all I want but if it doesn’t show up on game day, then it really doesn’t matter.”
Sitake and members of his staff have had to take on the role of psychologist of sorts to help keep the players’ spirits up.
“The morale’s good. If you’re not in touch with your players and if you’re not in communication with them then it could really drop,” Sitake said. “But our coaching staff is involved with our players. We love them and they’re part of our family. We’re heavily involved in communicating with them. … We have a good (feel) on these guys mentally and where they’re at right now.
"There’s no quit in them. If there was, you’d see it on the field. We’re not seeing it in practice or in the games as far as effort and buy-in. What it comes down to is we’ve got to coach them up better.”
* * *
at Mississippi State (3-2)
Saturday, 10 a.m. MDT Davis Wade Stadium
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM