San Jose State (1-7) at BYU (1-7)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MDT, LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
PROVO — BYU has lost seven consecutive games for the first time since 1968, is assured of finishing with a losing record in the regular season for the first time since 2004, and has failed to automatically qualify for a bowl game for the first time in 12 years.
Considering all that, it would be easy to say that the Cougars have hit rock bottom.
But there are still five games remaining on the schedule.
At 1-7, the Cougars are free-falling. But they’ll have another shot at winning a game Saturday (1 p.m. MDT, BYUtv) when they host another 1-7 team, San Jose State, which is coming off a bye and enduring a six-game losing streak.
After BYU’s 33-17 loss at East Carolina last Saturday, coach Kalani Sitake now has an overall losing record (10-11) in his second season as the Cougar coach.
So where does BYU go from here?
After the latest setback in Greenville, North Carolina, Sitake framed the final stretch of the season.
“We obviously know that there are five games left now. I feel bad for the seniors but we have to honor them in the way that we play the rest of the season,” Sitake said. “We get to go home and try to get (a win) against San Jose State. That’s our focus right now. Just trying to figure out a way to get a win for these seniors.”
At this point, the Cougars are playing for pride.
“As frustrating as it is, you’ve got to look deep inside and find that kid that loves football,” said safety Zayne Anderson. “I love going out there as a defense, no matter what the circumstances are, whether we’re down or up. I love playing football and I think everyone needs to look to do it like that.”
Wide receiver Micah Simon said the message from Sitake after Saturday’s loss was simple.
“We’re going to play the rest of the season for our seniors. They’ve grinded for so hard for four years here,” Simon said. “It’s tough for them to not be able to go to postseason play — bowl games and things like that. We’ll continue to play our hearts out in each game for these seniors and continue to try to get a win each and every week and try to build momentum for next season for the guys who are coming back.”
It appears BYU is looking toward the future. Does that mean more younger players, like freshman quarterback Joe Critchlow, whose redshirt was burned a couple of weeks ago, will get more reps in place of starter Tanner Mangum?
“We’re always assessing what would be the best thing for us,” Sitake said. “Going back to square one, I think right now being able to review and evaluate our guys — all the positions are kind of open to what we have to focus on for the future and also how we can honor these seniors with these last games. We have to give ourselves a better chance to win. I can’t blame it all on the quarterback and one position. A lot of it has to do with us coaches. Whether it’s personnel or scheme, we have to figure out what’s the best thing for us in all three phases.”