FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It stands as one of the most humiliating losses in the modern history of BYU football.
A year ago, a UMass team that finished 4-8, beat the Cougars, 16-10, on Senior Day at LaVell Edwards Stadium. The Minutemen never trailed in the game.
It secured BYU’s first nine-loss season since 1955 while UMass snapped a 10-game road losing streak.
“I’m very disappointed about the loss. I’m disappointed for the seniors and the entire season,” coach Kalani Sitake said after the contest. “It’s the lowest point for all of us.”
No doubt, that defeat left a bitter taste in the mouths of the BYU program and memories of that setback remain fresh.
“That was a real big bummer. I just remember sitting there on the sideline (thinking), ‘Oh, my, what just happened here?’ It was one of those games that was a slower-type game,” said senior fullback Brayden El-Bakri. “You felt like, ‘It’s going to break open, it’s going to break open, it’s going to break open.’ It was one of those lull-type things. After the game, you’re like, ‘What’s going on?’ I’m really excited to play these guys again and try to help out a little more than I did last year.”
The Cougars have a chance to avenge that loss to the Minutemen Saturday (10 a.m., MST, BYUtv) at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
The stakes are even higher this time. BYU (4-5) needs two wins in its final three games — including the home finale against New Mexico State and the regular-season finale at arch-rival Utah — to become bowl-eligible. A loss Saturday for the Cougars would make their bowl hopes even more precarious.
Meanwhile, UMass (4-6) needs two victories to become bowl-eligible. It visits No. 6 Georgia next week in the regular-season finale. The Minutemen are coming off a 62-59 triple-overtime win over Liberty last week.
BYU has dropped four of its last five games, including two in a row. The Cougars fell 7-6 against Northern Illinois then lost 21-16 last week at Boise State.
“Our guys have a memory of last year’s game. More than anything, we’re just really hungry to get a win, especially after the last two weeks,” Sitake said. “Our guys are really disappointed about the (Boise State) game. But I love their attitude toward overcoming it and the challenges coming up. Our guys really believe in each other and they’re starting to gain momentum. We just need to minimize mistakes … and it’s up to us as coaches to get them in the right position to have success to win this game.”
BYU safety Austin Lee said his team remains confident.
“It’s frustrating losing back-to-back games. But there’s a good sense of belief still on this team. There’s a good sense of having each other’s backs,” he said. “No one is blaming or pointing fingers at one person or one unit. We all could have stepped up in different ways. It’s about starting fast and bouncing back this week and getting a win at UMass.”
In last season’s loss to the Minutemen, the Cougars gave up seven sacks and four interceptions. BYU scored only one touchdown and that came with just 53 seconds remaining in the game.
“Coach (Mark) Whipple’s a really good coach. He’s smart and can find ways to try to switch the game around like they did last year and made it a low-scoring game,” Sitake said. “We have to be ready for all of it. Offensively, we need to be clicking and finish drives when we get in the red zone, score touchdowns and not kick a lot of field goals.”
Yes, Sitake wants to see more touchdowns. The Cougars have scored just one TD in the past two games.5 comments on this story
“I’m really excited about our players’ effort and the belief they have in the team and the scheme and the things that we’re doing. We need to finish drives and finish the game,” Sitake said. “We’ve done well in the red zone most of the season. The last two weeks haven’t been good for us. That needs to improve. I don’t like kicking field goals but I have a lot of confidence in our kicker. Skyler (Southam) was 3 of 4. I like him kicking PATs better. I really want to score touchdowns in the red zone. The emphasis has got to be on what we’re good at and the efficiency that we can get our best performance so we can get into the end zone. That’s going to be the key.”
BYU (4-5) at UMass (4-6)
- Saturday, 10 a.m. MST Gillette Stadium
- TV: BYUtv
- Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM