A learning curve was inevitable for BYU football in 2018
Well, it finally happened, BYU football fans.
Your worst nightmare became reality for the Cougars as they went on the road Saturday night in Seattle as a double-digit underdog and actually played like they didn’t belong on the same field with an elite opponent.
Washington ran and passed effectively all night long, while the Husky defense forced BYU to mostly gain small chunks of yards and rarely convert third downs (the Cougars were 5-of-14 on the night).
That is the basic recipe for a blowout and the 35-7 Washington victory reflected that.
But, on the surface, this BYU team doesn’t seem like the type to crumble under the weight of a poor showing and disappointing loss.
“We are a resilient group,” Cougar senior quarterback Tanner Mangum said after the game. “We’ve got to bounce back. That’s part of the game. Losing sucks and you have to acknowledge that, but then you have to learn from it. We aren’t content with losing but we are going to lose it as a learning opportunity and get better from it. It’s on to the next one.”
He pointed out that one of the best things about playing college football is that there more games.
“Part of what makes a season so fun is that there is constant opportunities to redeem yourself, to get back in the win column,” Mangum said. “That’s what we are going to look forward to. We have to learn from this. We definitely have to be better but we are going to come back working extremely hard to show our resilience, to show who we are as a group and not let this affect the rest of the season.”
The word “learn” was probably the most used word at BYU’s postgame press conference as Mangum, Cougar head coach Kalani Sitake and BYU senior defensive linemen Corbin Kaufusi all used it to describe how the Cougars plan to cope with being so soundly defeated.
“This is an opportunity for us to learn from this game and get better,” Sitake said. “We don’t have time to sulk. We have to play a game in less time, next Friday, so we don’t have time to think about it. Utah State is coming off a bye, so they will be ready for us — and we will be ready for them too. We just need to bounce back from this loss. We can’t let this loss affect next week’s game. Sometimes that can happen, but the leaders, the players and the coaches, need to make sure that doesn’t happen this week.”
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that the Cougar offense is going to have times where it struggles.
Not only is BYU adapting to a brand-new system under offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, it also has nine freshmen and five sophomores on its two-deep depth chart.
Many of those players are in new roles and Washington exploited some of the Cougar inexperience to force costly mistakes, even though Mangum quietly had a extremely efficient showing (18-of-21 passing for 160 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions).
Perhaps the bigger concern is on the defensive side of the ball for BYU, where the Cougars have a more experienced group (six freshmen, five sophomores on the two-deep).
Against the efficiency and balance of the Husky offense, however, BYU wasn’t able to make enough plays to keep the Cougars in the game.
“We didn’t have a great game at all,” Kaufusi said. “I think the biggest thing for us on defense is that we have to do our job. When you think you have to do more than you should, that’s when you start to miss assignments. That’s because you want to play hard and make the plays, but at the same time you have to trust your teammates that they can do their job. For us, you have to learn to stick to your job no matter what is happening.”
Sitake also believed that a lot of the mistakes came from his players pressing and getting out of system.
“You can’t beat great teams when you are doing that,” Sitake said. “We talk about everyone doing their 1/11th and trusting their teammates to do that. I appreciate the energy and the want to, but not only would one person make a mistake, but then he would try to cover it by doing someone else’s job and that’s not going to work in this system in our program. It’s a tough lesson to learn but we have to learn it and get better.”