Our families have become close. He’s a good friend of mine and we still keep in touch. —Kalani Sitake on his connection with Brent Brennan
PROVO — It could be an odd and bittersweet reunion.
When BYU and San Jose State meet Saturday (1 p.m. MDT, BYUtv) at LaVell Edwards Stadium, it’s a matchup between Cougar coach Kalani Sitake and Spartan coach Brent Brennan, who have worked together and are good friends.
And Sitake and Brennan are dealing with eerily similar struggles. Their teams have identical 1-7 records. BYU has a seven-game losing streak and SJSU has a six-game losing streak.
Basically, Sitake and Brennan are looking to break their respective losing streaks and earn win No. 2 for their respective programs at each other’s expense.
A couple of years ago, the Oregon State coaching staff, under then-coach Gary Andersen, featured Sitake as the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator and Brennan as the wide receivers coach. Their families lived near each other in Corvallis and their kids played together.
“Our families have become close,” Sitake said. “He’s a good friend of mine and we still keep in touch.”
“Kalani is a tremendous human being and an outstanding football coach,” said Brennan, who is in his first season as a college head coach.
They happened to be together when BYU’s coaching search focused on Sitake in December 2015.
“We were recruiting in Los Angeles and Texas together. I had to be sworn to secrecy because we were driving in the car together, just the two of us, and all of a sudden, the BYU job started happening,” Brennan recalled. “I was really excited for him to get that opportunity to lead that program. It’s a special place to him having played there. I’m excited to play against him because he’s a good friend, a good coach and it’s a good challenge for us.”
The BYU-SJSU connections don’t end there. Cougar defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki was also part of that staff at OSU and so was SJSU defensive coordinator Derrick Odum, who coached the defensive backs under Sitake.
“There are a lot of guys on that staff that I know,” Sitake said. “They’re hard workers and they’re trying to build something at San Jose and they’re looking forward to coming in here and try to steal one from us. We need to protect our home turf. Whatever means necessary to win the game.”
BYU and SJSU have plenty in common besides losing streaks. Both rank among the worst in the nation on offense. The Spartans are also among the worst in the country on defense, ranking No. 127 in scoring defense, No. 119 in total defense and No. 128 in rushing defense.
Much of SJSU’s struggles can be attributed to its inexperience. The Spartans have 48 freshmen on their roster.
“At times, we’ve seen some really good things from our freshmen and at other times, we’ve seen it be quite ugly,” Brennan said. “That’s part of the process when you’re playing so many young players.”
Earlier this season, SJSU fell to Utah (54-16) and Utah State (61-10). The Spartans are coming off a bye and figure to be motivated.
“In the past few weeks we’ve shown some improvement in certain phases of our football team and obviously we haven’t gotten the result that we wanted,” Brennan said. “But I think we can point to some things and say that this is getting better and working better. When you have a young football team, you’re just anxious to play because they need the live reps.”
BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer, whose offense is averaging just 12.1 points per game, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“They’ve been playing better each week. They’re coming off a bye so they may get some fresh bodies back,” Detmer said of the Spartans. “They’ll be hungry and playing fast. They’ve given up a lot in the run game to date but they’ve played some good teams as well. They play pretty sound. You don’t look at the film and say, ‘We can expose that right away.’ We’re going to have to play clean and execute. When the shots are there, we want to go after them.”
SJSU’s offense is led by freshman quarterback Montel Aaron, a 6-foot-5, 210-pounder who has completed 49 of 85 passes for 730 yards with two interceptions and six touchdowns in five games.
BYU cornerback Micah Hannemann said the Spartans are similar to East Carolina.
“They want to throw the ball. They have some athletic receivers,” Hannemann said. “Their quarterback is not as accurate. Hopefully we can get some more turnovers.”
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San Jose State (1-7)
at BYU (1-7)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MDT, LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM