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Ravell Call, Deseret News
BYU head coach Kalani Sitake enters the stadium before last Saturday's game against San Jose State Spartans in Provo.
You have to build upon the momentum. We’re all excited, we’re all happy, we’re all flying around at practice. —BYU fullback Brayden El-Bakri

FRESNO, Calif. — In last week’s 41-20 victory over San Jose State, BYU wide receivers coach Ben Cahoon noticed a huge difference in the Cougars’ mindset.

Instead of playing not to lose, “We played to win,” Cahoon said. “It was as close to BYU football as we’ve seen this season.”

With the victory, the Cougars snapped a disastrous seven-game losing streak.

Now can they build on that little bit of momentum when they visit Fresno State Saturday (8:45 p.m., MDT, ESPN2)?

Certainly, there’s been a different, more positive vibe around BYU (2-7) football this week.

“You have to build upon the momentum. We’re all excited, we’re all happy, we’re all flying around at practice,” said fullback Brayden El-Bakri. “It makes for more intense practices. After some of the losses, some of the guys are down but now we have a little more extra momentum.”

Quarterback Tanner Mangum agrees.

“Everyone’s in a good mood. Everyone’s excited. We’ve been working hard. It’s good to have that pay off a little bit, to see the fruits of our labor,” said Mangum. “It’s motivating because we’ve seen the progress.

"Guys are excited to get back at it this week to be even better … We’re not going to take anyone lightly at all, especially in our position. We’re fighting for victories every week. We’re looking for more wins in that win column. We’re excited to build off of Saturday and go to Fresno this week.”

Coach Kalani Sitake liked how his team played with confidence and aggression a week ago.

“Confidence comes from having optimism and preparing well,” he said. “We’re still looking to get better. The theme will still be the same. It worked last week so let’s do it again this week and amp it up a little more and try to have as perfect a game as you can.”

Fresno State (5-3), meanwhile, is coming off a stunning loss on its home field to UNLV last Saturday.

“I’m sure they’re not happy with last weekend and will be fired up for us,” said BYU offensive coordinator Ty Detmer.

A week ago, the Cougars were facing a team that is now 1-8. BYU was eager to end its losing skid.

“We played with more of an edge. I was upset the whole week that we were 1-7. My mentality was that there’s no time to joke around when you’re 1-7,” said linebacker Butch Pau’u. “The guys saw there was a different attitude that I was trying to carry and I wanted them to carry it, too. You hate to lose. … Last week we practiced hard and it showed up on Saturday.”

Can BYU build off last week’s win?

“You build off it a ton. We had a lot of energy coming in Monday. We weren’t depressed or sad about another loss,” Pau’u said. “We came in knowing we got a win. We know we can win. Now with that kind of mentality and having one under our belt, it feels nice. We’ll continue to work hard but we know we have a long way to go. We have four more games. We hope we can build off it and continue that mentality of winning.”

Assistant head coach Ed Lamb said the Cougars need to carry their aggressiveness into this week.

“Coach Sitake talked last week about being more aggressive on offense, defense and special teams. In some ways, that’s a nebulous term. What does that mean? I don’t know,” he said. “I think he’s smart enough to leave that to each individual coach. Our players rallied around that. Our coaches felt more liberated to be more aggressive in our play-calling and our schemes. I think that is a good on-field strategy that we can carry through (against Fresno State).”

Whether that approach is enough to beat the Bulldogs remains to be seen.

“We’ve got to be able to take Saturday and build from there — not just content with just getting a win,” Mangum said. “Now we have to step it up even more because Fresno’s a good team.”

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Cougars on the air

BYU (2-7)

at Fresno State (5-3)

Saturday, 8:45 p.m. MDT Bulldog Stadium


Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM