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BYU, Kalani Sitake have more than validated their ‘prove it’ season

Aftter expected blowout win over Idaho State, Sitake has Cougar program elevating

SHARE BYU, Kalani Sitake have more than validated their ‘prove it’ season
Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall takes the snap.

Brigham Young Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) takes the snap as the BYU Cougars and Idaho State Bengals play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

It’s been a remarkable 10-week run for Kalani Sitake and BYU’s No. 15 football program.

After defeating Idaho State 59-14 on Saturday before a sellout crowd of 63,470 in LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Cougars climbed to 8-2 on the season.

BYU got style points in the lopsided win and pulled out star players at halftime.

“We haven’t even played our best game yet,” proclaimed receiver Keanu Hill, who scored touchdowns on a catch and a punt block in the 45-point blowout.

The Cougars now wait to see what shakes out in the polls the next two weeks while they prepare for a trip to Georgia Southern.

On Saturday, as BYU polished off ISU, four teams ranked ahead of the Cougars lost. No. 12 Baylor lost to TCU, a school that just fired head coach Gary Patterson, No. 3 Michigan State lost to Purdue, No. 9 Wake Forest lost to North Carolina and No. 13 Auburn lost to No. 14 Texas A&M.

Of note, Auburn and Baylor ranked just ahead of No. 15 BYU in the first CFP poll released last week.

Sitake wasted no time laying on the good vibes on a sun-drenched day. Just pile it up after this entire affair started back in August. It’s been a train of good news for his program, including a 4-0 record over the Pac-12 — ending a nine-game losing streak to rival Utah as part of that — and an invite to join the Big 12.

How much more fan nirvana does Sitake have up his sleeves?

Right before kickoff on Saturday, Sitake and the athletic department sent out a press release announcing the official signing of Oregon transfer offensive lineman Kingsley Suamataia, a five-star prospect out of Orem High who is 6-foot-7 and 315 pounds. His decision was a huge addition for Sitake.

The press release read: “Suamataia was among the nation’s most heralded high school prospects in the 2021 recruiting class, being rated a consensus top-40 player by both Rivals (No. 23) and 247Sports (No. 36). By position, Rivals (No. 5), 247Sports (No. 6) and ESPN (No. 11) rated Suamataia as one of the 11-best offensive tackles in the country.” 

Suamataia’s news followed earlier announcements by four-star recruits Cody Hagen (Corner Canyon receiver) and former Utah commit Aisea Moa, a defensive end at Weber High, who decommitted to the Utes 11 days prior to his announcement to enroll at BYU in January after early graduation.

At the game Saturday was one of the nation’s top high school cornerbacks, five-star Cormani McClain from Lakeland, Florida.

Now, a confession.  

Back in August, I postulated that an eight-win season for BYU would be a very good season in a rebuilding year after losing five players to the NFL draft. A nine-win season would be outstanding. I did not think Sitake would get his team to 10 wins with this kind of schedule, starting out against Arizona, Arizona State and Utah.

Lo and behold, the Cougars started 5-0 and ranked No. 10 in the country. 

This is a team with almost no senior players. They tried to honor the seniors on Saturday and they had to line up a lot of maybes, or fake seniors, like sophomore star running back Tyler Allgeier and junior Neil Pau’u. 

If you look at the two-deep, there are only three seniors: wide receiver Samson Nacua, defensive lineman Uriah Leiataua and safety Jared Kapisi.

On Saturday, holding on to a No. 15 ranking in the first CFP poll, the Cougars finished 10-straight games without a break. 

The rankings will prove to be an interesting dynamic for the Cougars heading into a bye week. Teams like previously undefeated Michigan State and Wake Forest may not drop too much with their losses because of the strength of schedule and Power Five losses. The Cougars may not be given too much credit for beating ISU, an FCS school.

But with BYU’s previous opponents continuing to win, like Utah pelting Stanford 52-7, Arizona getting its first win of the season 10-3 over the Cal Bears and Utah State elevating to 7-2 after a 35-13 win over New Mexico State, there could be poll creep for the Cougars.

Regardless of poll watchers the next two weeks, Sitake must be applauded for the energy he, his staff and players have interjected into the program.  

Saturday’s sellout for an FCS foe proved it.

Remember, last season was supposed to have been a fluke, an asterisk. This season was supposed to be a “prove it” campaign.

Sitake and company have long since validated themselves for 2020 success at 11-1.

This season has been nothing but a validation of what direction Sitake is taking the BYU program. From recruiting success to wins to player development to potential future NFL draftees built on last year’s unusual five taken, this is what momentum is.

Sitake is 45-28 overall and 12-13 against P5 schools, 5-1 this year. His Cougars are headed to a fifth bowl game since he took over in 2016.

His Cougars take a long-deserved rest to heal up before the last two regular season games.

They’ve earned it.