If there is one player on BYU’s football team not afraid to tell it like it is, it is tight end Isaac Rex. The son of former Cougar great Byron Rex doesn’t make excuses, or sugarcoat things.

Rex had a message on Monday for BYU fans who may have lost faith in their team after last Saturday’s devastating 41-20 loss to Oregon at Autzen Stadium. The No. 19 Cougars (2-1) play host to 3-1 Wyoming on Saturday at 8:15 p.m. MDT.

“We will get this thing back on track,” Rex said, two days after catching a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jaren Hall, his first TD catch of the season after entering his third season with 15 in his career — 12 in 2020 and three in 2021.

“I am not looking for excuses. We can play better. And my job is to get our guys to play better. … We missed quite a bit of the fundamentals that I like to brag about that we are good at. It just seems very uncharacteristic of our team to not play their style of football.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake

Rex and the other players who appeared at the weekly press briefing via Zoom on Monday — receiver Kody Epps and linebacker Keenan Pili — said the message from the coaches after the game and again Monday morning was to not let the Ducks beat them twice.

“We can’t let this loss affect the rest of our season. We can’t be down on ourselves. … We have to kinda take this loss with a grain of salt and we have to focus on getting better from this,” Rex said. “Obviously, Oregon has a lot of great athletes and they are really talented, so that is going to help us throughout the season as we play more teams. We are not happy with how we performed, with how we played. We will learn from it.”

Pili and Rex both sustained season-ending injuries last year, had surgery, and have returned to form in 2022. Both stars said they are healthy, with Pili noting he is 100% back and Rex saying he is “getting close” to full strength.

Pili said he dislocated a couple of fingers against Oregon and had to leave the game for a bit, but returned and is fine.

“Talking to some of the boys after the game, we are just trying to still stay positive and fall back on what we know, and that is love and learn,” Pili said. “We are going to try to learn from those situations and move on and hopefully correct them this next week.”

The failure to establish a run game and the inability to stop Oregon’s running attack were two of BYU’s biggest problems in the three-touchdown loss.

Rex said to get the running game going the Cougars need to stay on their blocks, stay in front of guys they are blocking.

“We pride ourselves at running the ball at BYU,” Rex said. “We want to get better. We want to improve on that. We will get better this week at the run game.”

Pili said the key to stopping the run is better execution and cutting down on missed tackles.

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“I think you could talk to all of the guys and ask them how they feel about the last game, how they played, and I am sure each one will tell you they could have done better, could have done more, executed the assignments better,” Pili said.

Of course, coach Kalani Sitake weighed in Monday on the blocking and tackling woes as well, saying playing with more discipline is the key.

“I don’t think we were disciplined enough as a team,” Sitake said. “I gotta do a better job making sure our guys are playing correctly, and that we show up better. I feel like that was a missed opportunity. … We are in the situation now where we are humbled. Now how much can we learn from this and see how much we get things back on track?”

Sitake refused to blame the loss on having a “hangover” from the wins over USF and Baylor.

“I am not looking for excuses,” he said. “We can play better. And my job is to get our guys to play better. … We missed quite a bit of the fundamentals that I like to brag about that we are good at. It just seems very uncharacteristic of our team to not play their style of football.”

Special teams not special

Sitake noted several times Monday that special teams weren’t special, either. For example, kicker Jake Oldroyd missed a 38-yard field goal in the second quarter that would have stemmed Oregon’s momentum. And after a weak, 35-yard punt, Pili was hit with a 15-yard personal foul penalty for a late hit (while another BYU defender was tackling a punt returner who had seemingly called for a fair catch).

“We need to figure it out. We had some really bad penalties at really bad times,” Sitake said.

During his “Coordinators’ Corner” program Monday, special teams coordinator Ed Lamb said the competition to be the field goal kicker will be reopened this week in order to “bring out the best” in Oldroyd and the other kickers.

“We have to continue to evaluate (the kicking situation) and if it is the right thing for the team at this point,” Lamb said. “(Oldroyd) has to continue to earn (the spot) to be the No. 1 guy. He has got to make those field goals.”


Cougars on the air

Wyoming (3-1) at No. 19 BYU (2-1)

Saturday, 8:15 p.m. MDT

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LaVell Edwards Stadium

Provo, Utah

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