PROVO — While BYU is coming off just its second victory of the season after having snapped a seven-game losing streak, the Cougars’ next opponent, Fresno State, is fresh off of a stunning setback.
The Cougars clobbered San Jose State last Saturday, 41-20, at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The mistake-prone Bulldogs fell at home to UNLV, 26-16.
BYU visits Fresno State Saturday (8:45 p.m. MDT, ESPN2).
Six days after playing the Bulldogs, the Cougars play at UNLV (3-5).
Fresno State (5-3) will be looking to get bowl eligible this week against BYU (2-7).
The Cougars are looking to build on some momentum after smashing the Spartans.
“Definitely getting this win feels really great and I know it does for the coaches and for us players to finally get a win and get going from there,” said BYU defensive lineman Sione Takitaki. “We have Fresno next week so we’re not going to hang our hats on this one.”
BYU coach Kalani Sitake hopes that Saturday’s win gives his team some much-needed confidence heading into the final four games of the season.
“Having optimism isn’t good enough. Just saying things will get better isn’t good enough. You have to combine that with hard work and preparation,” he said. “When you get those and you do it right, then you have confidence and that shows on the field. Although it wasn’t perfect (Saturday), there’s a lot of things we can still do. It’s a lot easier to make those corrections when you win.”
While the Cougars made their share of mistakes against SJSU, Sitake liked his team’s mindset going into the game.
“I’m pretty pleased with the way the coaches coached and prepared their guys and the players did a great job,” he said.
Both the players and coaches are glad to have tasted victory for the first time in a long time.
In all of his years of football, dating all the way back to Little League, BYU running backs coach Reno Mahe hadn’t experienced a losing streak like the one the Cougars went through before Saturday.
The losing streak changed his perspective.
“I’ve never had anything like that at any level of football, in college or in the pros. The one thing that I’m taking from all this is, I’ve learned more in the last three months as a coach than I did the first 18 months,” Mahe said last week. “Because of all of the adversity, it’s amazing how much you learn when you go through this — more than I did all of last year. I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful for the process and the system. All the littlest things that we’re checking and figuring out what we’re doing wrong. I get it, we coach and players are playing. We hope to make plays but a lot of times, they’re doing what they are coached to do. It’s not just them. We’re in this just as much as they are. You don’t ever want to lose seven in a row, but I’ve learned so much about myself and about trying to be the best coach you can be. Winning masks things. When you’re going what we’re going through, I’m getting better at coaching.”
Mahe said he’s also learned to be grateful for wins.
“Last year, coach (Ilaisa) Tuiaki said, ‘It is hard to win in Division I football. I don’t care who you play. You enjoy those wins,’” Mahe recalled. “Having never been on this side of it, losing seven in a row, you don’t realize it until you go through it. Am I going to be grateful for every win, no matter who we’re playing or where we’re playing? It’ll be different from now on in the way I appreciate things.”