For Sitake, Utah Isn’t ‘Just Another Game’

Nov 19, 2018, 4:25 PM | Updated: Nov 23, 2018, 10:41 am
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitaki sings the fight song after beating the McNeese State...
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Kalani Sitaki sings the fight song after beating the McNeese State Cowboys in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018. BYU won 30-3. (Jeff Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeff Allred, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – The fans know it, the players know it, and the BYU coaching staff knows it. Cougar head coach and former Utah assistant Kalani Sitake said Saturday’s matchup with Utah is, “not another game.”

“It’s really competitive. I think there’s a lot of people who care about it. We definitely do. This is an important game to me, an important game to our coaches, our administration, (and) our fans especially. Our players are excited for his game,” said Sitake.

Playing A Full 60 Minutes Is Key

With the pressure of a seven-game losing streak to Utah on their backs, the Cougars are looking for a different outcome to the game this year. Even though they became bowl eligible with a win over New Mexico State last week, Sitake and his players are considering the game against the Utes to be the most important game of the year.

One of the keys, according to Sitake, will be playing a full 60 minutes of great football, which includes getting off to a good start.

“We’re always working constantly to try to get the perfect game, and it would be a good time to start fast and finish strong and play all 60 minutes as we could,” he said at his Monday press conference in Provo.

Sitake, who has extensive experience playing and coaching in the rivalry game, said it would be a good time for the Cougars to play their best game of the year.

No Problem Being The Underdog

So far this season, the Cougars’ best games have come on the road when they’ve been considered to be underdogs. Wins over Arizona and Wisconsin are evidence of that phenomenon. As for why that’s the case, Sitake isn’t sure, but he’s fine being the visiting underdog.

“Not a lot of people are picking us to win,” admitted Sitake. “That’s okay. I don’t mind being in this position.”

Led By Wilson, Cougars Are Confident

Both teams will be led by quarterbacks who have yet to play in the rivalry matchup. The Utes have redshirt freshman Jason Shelley under center, while the Cougars will be receiving signals and passes from true freshman Zach Wilson. Although he has just five starts under his belt, the Cougars are confident that Wilson can be effective in a hostile environment on Saturday.

“I’m excited for Zach. He’s gotten better each week,” said wide receiver Micah Simon. “He’s made mistakes but that’s how it is in the game of football. He’s learned from the mistakes and he’s continued to prepare and continued to put himself in a position to make plays. I’m excited for him. I’m confident in him to lead us.”

Sitake OK With The Pressure

It’s not just Wilson who will be facing pressure on Saturday. It will to be tough for the entire team. Sitake, who played in the rivalry game from 1998-2000, knows it well and that sits just fine with him.

“It’s just not another game,” said Sitake. “It’s the most important game of our season right now and that’s our approach. I think it adds a lot of pressure (and) expectations on our players and I’m okay with it.”

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For Sitake, Utah Isn’t ‘Just Another Game’