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‘People need to respect him a little bit more now’: Ilaisa Tuiaki’s defensive adjustments carried BYU to wild win over Virginia

After giving up 35 points in the second quarter and 42 in the first half, Cougars allowed Cavaliers only seven points in the second half en route to 66-49 victory

SHARE ‘People need to respect him a little bit more now’: Ilaisa Tuiaki’s defensive adjustments carried BYU to wild win over Virginia
BYU defensive backs Malik Moore (12) and Kaleb Hayes defend Virginia’s Dontayvion Wicks at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.

Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Malik Moore (12) and teammate Brigham Young Cougars defensive back Kaleb Hayes (18) defend Virginia Cavaliers wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks (3) as BYU and Virginia play at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

BYU coach Kalani Sitake has officially grown tired of the constant questioning of his defensive coaching staff’s schemes and game plans.

After that staff made the right adjustments at halftime and limited Virginia to just seven second-half points in the Cougars’ 66-49 win over Virginia on Saturday night, Sitake reacted rather sternly — by his standards — to a question about Cougars dropping eight defenders and rushing only three.

“Drop eight won the game for us,” Sitake said. “And that was Ilaisa Tuiaki’s idea. That’s wasn’t really the game plan. … We dropped eight in the second half and held a really explosive offense to seven points. I think people need to respect him a little bit more now.”

It was one of the most impressive defensive turnarounds in the Sitake era. 

BYU scored the first 21 points and the last 21 points in the shootout. In between those explosions, however, the Cavaliers did most of the scoring.

“Drop eight won the game for us. And that was Ilaisa Tuiaki’s idea. That’s wasn’t really the game plan. … We dropped eight in the second half and held a really explosive offense to seven points. I think people need to respect him a little bit more now.” — BYU coach Kalani Sitake

Virginia put up 367 yards and 35 points in the second quarter alone — more yards and points than in the other three quarters combined.

“The second quarter was really harsh for me to see as a coach,” Sitake said. “At halftime, the guys regained their composure and we talked about adjustments and utilizing more personnel, more people on the field. That’s what we do. We keep our guys fresh, and I am happy that our guys made some plays.”

Sitake said the credit should go to Tuiaki, defensive ends coach Preston Hadley, linebackers coach Kevin Clune and safeties coach Ed Lamb for making the right adjustments after the original game plan called for more man-press coverage and four-man fronts.

“Well, the difference (in the second half) was Ilaisa Tuiaki making adjustments at halftime,” Sitake said. “For our players, it wasn’t so much the scheme adjustments, it was focusing on fundamentals. I mean, we did a couple things differently scheme-wise. But it was (more defensive rotations) than anything else.”

Sitake noted that the Cougars held the Cavs to two three-and-outs and an interception (by Payton Wilgar) while playing mostly four-man fronts and man-press defense, but guys got tired due to no television timeouts because the game hadn’t been moved over to ESPN2 yet.

“I think our guys got a little fatigued, and then you start to miss tackles, and when you get tired you start to forget technique,” he said. “We weren’t able to gather ourselves.”

When Virginia was scoring on drives of 75, 75, 75 and 77 yards in the first half, the Cougars at times had up to six walk-ons or former walk-ons on the field.

“Defensively, we had a lot of guys that were banged up and weren’t able to go,” he said. “That’s just the game, but at the same time we have to believe in our depth. We had guys playing tired when they should have just rested.

“We had to lean on some second- and third-stringers, and the second-stringers made some plays,” he continued.

None bigger than the interception made by backup linebacker Drew Jensen, cousin of former BYU basketball stars Nick and Jackson Emery. Jensen’s pick midway through the fourth quarter gave the Cougars the ball on the UVA 35, and seven plays later Tyler Allgeier’s record-tying fifth TD of the game sealed the deal.

Jensen “seems to have a great feel for the passing game and how to defend,” Sitake said. “There were (defensive) mistakes, but it was really one quarter that I really wish we had back.”

BYU, Idaho State TV

Cougars on the air


Idaho State (1-7)

at BYU (7-2)

Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT

At LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo

TV: BYUtv

Radio: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM


So the Cougars (7-2) recorded their fifth win over a Power Five program this season, in six tries.

They were rewarded with a No. 17 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday, up from No. 25. They re-entered the Coaches Poll at No. 20.

Idaho State (1-7), a Football Championship Subdivision program in the Big Sky Conference, visits Saturday (1:30 p.m., BYUtv). The Bengals lost 40-17 to Weber State in Pocatello on Saturday and own just one win, a 27-17 victory over UC Davis at Holt Arena on Oct. 9.