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Can Cougars scratch out a win against pesky Pirates?

To avoid a fourth-straight loss, Kalani Sitake and his team must find the confidence and swagger they had when defeating Baylor

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BYU coach Kalani Sitake tells during loss to Notre Dame at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake tells during loss to Notre Dame at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. The Cougars take a three-game losing streak into Friday’s game against East Carolina Friday night in Provo.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

This article was first published in the Cougar Insiders newsletter. Sign up to receive the newsletter in your inbox each Tuesday night.

BYU coach Kalani Sitake is desperate to snap a three-game losing streak when the Cougars host East Carolina on Friday night, a team fresh off a nice win over Big 12-bound Central Florida. Sitake has taken over aspects of the defense, including play calls and shifted assignments of his staff. He is trying to build confidence and sharpen execution. The question is, can all this be accomplished in a week when the past three weeks have not found a fix?

Cougar Insider predictions

Predict the score of the East Carolina at BYU game and explain why you believe in your prognostication.

Jay Drew: I can’t imagine BYU playing a worse game the remainder of the season than they played in the 41-14 loss to Liberty last week. It was one of the Cougars’ worst losses in the independence era. Yes, Liberty is good. And right now, BYU isn’t good. The Cougars have so many problems defensively that they are too numerous to list.

East Carolina is, on paper, as good as Liberty. The Pirates showed that last week in defeating a good UCF team in Greenville, North Carolina. BYU’s confidence is shot — on both sides of the ball. After a decent start, BYU didn’t score a single point in the game’s final three quarters against Liberty. Clearly, Jaren Hall is not back to full strength. And now it appears the Cougars will be without running back Chris Brooks, who left before halftime with a hamstring issue. I think the Cougars will be on the short end of a shootout.

Prediction: East Carolina 35, BYU 28

Dick Harmon: Can playing at home in elevation on a cold October Friday night bring out the best in BYU? Well, East Carolina has all the building blocks to hand the Cougars their fourth-straight loss. It has an athletic 300-yard passing QB and a 100-yard per game running back. We haven’t seen that BYU is capable of stopping either feature in an opponent in almost a month.

The biggest question is if BYU’s defensive coaches can fix very fundamental failures, things like tackling, gap control, blown coverages, linebackers’ inability to make big plays, and a lack of pass rush. Offensively, the Cougars disappeared against Liberty for three quarters when it was required that they score on nearly every possession. These are serious fixes and it is doubtful they can be fixed in a week. BYU really, really needs a win but on paper it is tough to make a case that can happen against East Carolina.

Prediction: East Carolina 27, BYU 24

Cougar tales

Mark Pope will unveil his basketball team during a blue-white scrimmage Wednesday in the Marriott Center, as Alex Barcello’s sister is looking to follow in her brother’s footsteps at BYU in this piece by Jeff Call.

Former Cougars chime in on BYU’s defensive woes in this collection of tweets by Brandon Judd.

From the archives

From the Twitterverse

Extra points


The culture of complacency is affecting the whole team not just the defense. A coordinator can only do so much when accountability, focus, intensity and effort are not part of the culture. I believe, Detmer being a classy guy, didn’t bother to point this out when he was asked to move on.

— BYUToday

I cannot understand why he didn’t accept the resignation! I once hired a good friend for an important job in my company. After about 6 months I realized he wasn’t up to the task so I let him go. The relationship was damaged but had I kept him, my company would have suffered irreparable damage. Had he offered to resign, we might have salvaged a long relationship. Sitake is going to have to fire him eventually!


A lot of this let’s fire him is really stupid. It’s not like it’s our decision and beyond that we’re mid season with a team that clearly needs help.

Does it make our losses better if someone gets fired? Does it vindicate Detmer?

If Tuiaki is no longer the DC then that implies that a new DC is coming in and generally speaking that DC gets to choose his staff which usually amounts to roughly half of the established guys staying and a few of the former DC’s staff coming in.

The drop 8 is totally dependent on a dominating DL, something BYU has struggled with since Tonga went to the NFL.

Almost all defensive work is based on the effectiveness of the DL to disrupt plays and create havoc. Right now few of our guys even have the motor to catch an athletic QB who’s rolling to avoid them.

The DL needs serious help, now somebody will be fully focused on that group.

It might be that Tuiaki can’t be DC and DL position coach at the same time, but he might prove to be a huge asset to the DL.

Given the circumstances, this might be better. It’s hard for a new DC to come in with the old DC still around, and he’s going to be evaluated based on how the DL improves from here forward.

For those of you who want him gone, which I’ve said for a long time — this is a really good way to test things out. He’s got a massive amount of work to do and if the DL shows tangible signs of improvement he’ll still probably have a 50% chance of staying on. But he’s got to work for it.

I hope he succeeds.

— Josh in London

Up next

Oct. 26 | 7 p.m. | Men’s basketball | Blue and White Game | @Provo

Oct. 27-28 | 3 p.m., 10 a.m. | Men’s tennis | Rice Fall Challenge | @Houston

Oct. 27 | 7 p.m. | Women’s volleyball | vs. Gonzaga | @Provo

Oct. 27 | 7 p.m. | Women’s basketball | vs. Westminster | @Provo

Oct. 28 | 6:30 p.m. | Football | vs. East Carolina | @Provo