PROVO — Kalani Sitake found a teaching moment he believes can be a theme this week as BYU faces No. 6 Wisconsin for what will be a major test for the program.
After the 21-18 loss to Cal, Sitake could envision many ways BYU could have won that game had a few plays gone the other way. His staff has scoured the game film and found plenty of cases where correctable mistakes should lead to improvement come Saturday in Big Ten territory.
And he found the perfect foil to preach this mantra in junior safety Dayan Ghanwoloku.
It is the “overcoming” of bad to do good by his converted corner last Saturday that Sitake believes the entire team can learn from.
Overcome mistakes and then springboard past those miscues by making bigger plays.
In the third quarter against Cal, Ghanwoloku, who was BYU’s best cover corner a year ago, got caught looking at Bear quarterback Chase Garbers as a pass play developed. By taking his eyes off Cal’s best and most productive receiver, Kanawai Noa, Ghanwoloku lost where Noa was until it was too late as Garbers completed a perfect 52-yard touchdown strike to give the Bears a 14-3 lead — essentially putting the Cougars in panic mode on their home turf.
That play never should have happened. It was Cal’s biggest of the night. It was a yard-gobbler, a single strike, and a deadly one at that.
But it was correctable by using the proper technique.
Later, Ghanwoloku scooped up a fumble and raced 36 yards for BYU’s first touchdown of the game two minutes after Noa's big TD. Later on, Ghanwoloku, playing special teams on punt cover, was in perfect position to recover a muffed punt, a play that should have resulted in a Cougar touchdown.
“That is an example of what I’m talking about,” Sitake told reporters Monday. “We have to be more efficient as a team.
“Every team makes mistakes and is not perfect, but you need to cut down on as many of those mistakes as you can and then step up and make big plays just like Dayan did. That is what good teams do and that is what we will be focusing on this week is everyone correcting mistakes and playing better, and that’s on both sides of the ball and special teams.”
You could say that about dropped passes. You could say it about the failure to communicate some play calls and blocking assignments at critical times, and avoiding penalties and turnovers that kill drives.
I’d buy the Ghanwoloku theory. It would be nice to see BYU do exactly that in Madison on Saturday.
Playing Wisconsin will take much more than eliminating mistakes. The Cougars will have to avoid turnovers, while finding a way to create chunk plays itself. The Badgers are a powerful, strong, smash-mouth team that will seek to chalk up an easy win over the mistake-laden Cougars they saw fall to Cal.
BYU has no margin for error to be competitive against Wisconsin.
“On any given Saturday, a coach can take a handful of plays and say they were the difference between winning and losing,” echoed assistant head coach Ed Lamb on his weekly “Coordinator’s Corner” radio interview.
“If the game was anywhere close, that is usually what it comes down to. We did not make those plays this past week and so we have to learn from the success of week one and the sting of a loss in week two and apply that to week three,” said Lamb.
So this is how BYU is licking its wounds in preparation for the Badgers.
Nobody’s quitting, but there is some self-examination.
BYU desperately needs some explosive plays.
But it’s a team that needs to perfect the more routine plays.
It will be an interesting week.