We have to move on and learn as much as we can from the game. We have a top-10 team coming into town next week. —BYU head coach Kalani Sitake
No. 10 Wisconsin (2-0) at BYU (1-2)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT, LaVell Edwards Stadium, TV: ABC/ESPN
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
PROVO — For BYU coach Kalani Sitake, emotions ranged from frustration to a bit of encouragement after a 19-13 setback to Utah last Saturday night.
The Cougars fell for the seventh consecutive time in the rivalry game. Despite giving up three turnovers and gaining only 233 yards of total offense, somehow BYU trailed by just six points in the waning minutes.
“There were some positives, but it’s hard to think about it with the loss,” Sitake said. “We have to move on and learn as much as we can from the game. We have a top-10 team coming into town next week.”
That top-10 opponent is No. 10 Wisconsin, who invades LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday (1:30 p.m., MDT, ESPN/ABC). The Badgers (2-0) are coming off a 31-14 victory over Florida Atlantic.
BYU (1-2) doesn’t have time to dwell on another loss to Utah.
“We fought. We played the best we could,” said tight end Matt Bushman, who caught six passes for 50 yards against the Utes. “It stinks to lose the rivalry game, and it stinks to lose two games in a row. But we have to keep moving forward. We have a long season ahead of us. We’ve just got to stay confident and get ready for Wisconsin next week.”
Sitake said that his program needs “to evaluate everything. That goes from top to bottom. We did not play well. I’m really frustrated with the whole thing. We really wanted this game. Now we have to wait for another year. We need to learn as much as we can from this game. We need to win.”
One good sign for BYU was the performance of freshman running back Ula Tolutau, who rushed five times for 25 yards and a touchdown.
Going into Saturday’s game, Tolutau had only one carry for 3 yards. He missed much of fall camp due to injury. Now he’s healthy.
“We feel like we’re more comfortable with him being on the field now. I think we found a really good running back in Ula,” Sitake said. “That’s what we thought that he would be — a powerful running back for us and a difference-maker. We look forward to him going full go next week and him being the guy. The silver lining is we found a running back."
Still, BYU’s offense continued to sputter much of the night, putting the defense in adverse situations. Quarterback Tanner Mangum completed 21 of 39 passes for 170 yards, one touchdown and three picks.
“We shouldn’t have to rely on our defense all the time,” Bushman said. “They’re a great defense but we need to help them out. They’re on the field a long time.”
The Cougars scored an apparent go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter but it was negated by a pass interference call on wide receiver Aleva Hifo. BYU ended up missing a field goal and came away with zero points on the drive.
“Nobody feels worse than Aleva right now but we’ve got to fix it. He is talented and has a lot of speed,” Sitake said. “But he can’t make costly mistakes and he understands that. His mistake wasn’t the only issue though. There were other breakdowns that made it difficult for Tanner to throw. We need to look at film and see what the issues are.”
On BYU’s final possession, Hifo and Beau Tanner dropped passes before the Cougars turned the ball over on downs.
“It is frustrating that we couldn’t put together a drive to win the game,” Sitake said.
Sitake said he was proud of his team’s defensive effort. The Cougars surrendered some big plays but held the Utes to four field goals.
“We dug a hole early on in the game with turnovers and interceptions and we put our defense in some bad situations,” Sitake said. “I am not happy about it and I am going to fix it. We need to fix the problems we are having on offense."
BYU linebacker Matt Hadley said the defense isn't pointing fingers at the offense.
“You don’t want to be frustrated with the offense because they would see that. We try to keep our heads up, help them keep their heads up and encourage them,” he said. “Of course we want them to put up more points. We can do a better job and hold them to even less points so that our offense doesn’t have to march all 90 yards down the field with 1:15 left. We would like to see more points, but we’ve got to do a better job as well.”