What now?

What do you do when your defense gives up 644 yards and 52 points to a mid-level SEC team that was averaging 462 yards and 29.5 points per game before they steamrolled you 52-35 in Provo on Saturday afternoon in front of a sellout crowd of 63,470?

Chalk it up to a mismatch and move on? Replace the defensive coordinator with yourself and start calling plays the final five regular season games of the year?

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake faced those questions Saturday afternoon after the Cougars dropped to 4-3 with one of the worst defensive performances of his seven-year tenure in Provo, perhaps the worst.

“I am involved in (defensive play-calling). I don’t think I am ready to answer that question right now, but that is an option. So we have a lot of different options out there. I like our guys. I think the effort they give us is fantastic. I need to get focused on getting things done. I am not closed to any options out there, that being one of them.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake on possibly taking over the defensive play-calling.

“Yeah, we have done that before as a program. This is my seventh season, so there are times we have had to do that,” Sitake said when asked if, due to his background as a defensive coordinator, he might consider taking over play-calling duties from DC Ilaisa Tuiaki.

“I am involved in it. I don’t think I am ready to answer that question right now, but that is an option,” Sitake said. “So we have a lot of different options out there. I like our guys. I think the effort they give us is fantastic. I need to get focused on getting things done. I am not closed to any options out there, that being one of them.”

Next up for the Cougars is a cross-country trip to play Liberty (6-1) in Lynchburg, Virginia. Sitake said that when Liberty coach Hugh Freeze sees the tape of BYU getting pulverized by standout Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson and the rest of the Razorbacks, he will grin from ear to ear.

“Hugh Freeze is a really good coach, and he knows how to score points. I am pretty sure he is going to be champing at the bit watching this one,” Sitake said.

“Our defense gave up 52 points. We just got to get back and get to work.”

Sitake said he’s got some decisions to make.

“I am the head coach. I gotta figure this out, but when you have some of the stuff that we have, I feel good about what we can get done in between now and next week,” he said.

“I am going to go back and assess and review and then make decisions as the head coach.”

Does that mean making some changes? Sitake spoke as if a personnel change isn’t imminent, but clearly the Cougars have major problems on defense.

After Notre Dame went 11 of 16 on third down last week, Arkansas was 12 of 15 on Saturday.

“I don’t think you can put all your attention on one thing,” Sitake said, “but there are some things that you can address and you can fix quickly, and then there are things you need to work on. But I think you can cover it all.

“I know what we can do as a team to get us playing at our best, and that’s what we need to do. It could be a quick change, or other times we will need every part of next week to get it done. I don’t think the answer is one thing. I think the answer is a few things. I have an idea what they are.”

Clearly frustrated because he’s a coach who has built his career and reputation as a defensive mastermind, Sitake used the example of a change he made a few weeks ago to get the Cougars to stop making stupid penalties.

They only had a few of those Saturday (four for 50 yards), and they clearly weren’t the reason why the Cougars lost.

“I don’t blame the players, but they have to handle their 1/11th. Do your job on the field and then I can live with the mistakes if a guy makes a great play,” Sitake said. “… There are things we can definitely flip and have our guys playing at a higher level.”

This one can’t be blamed on injuries, either. The Cougars played without Gunner Romney, Lopini Katoa and Miles Davis on offense but were mostly at full strength on defense.

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Senior starting safety Malik Moore (fractured hand) didn’t play again, but Jakob Robinson and Gabe Summers returned to the lineup. Defensive lineman Josh Larsen is lost for the season, while Blake Mangelson is due back in a week or two.

Linebacker Tavita Gagnier is out for the season as well.

Saturday, starting linebacker Payton Wilgar left the game with a lower leg injury and was in a walking boot on the sidelines the whole second half.

“The key is if a guy is playing injured compared to being sore,” Sitake said. “Are you helping the team or hurting the team? That is going to be the key for us.”

It might not be the only one.