COUGAR TRACKS

Kalani Sitake Has Experienced BYU-Utah Rivalry From All Angles

Aug 25, 2019, 8:46 PM
Head coach Kalani Sitake of the Brigham Young Cougars looks on in a game against the Utah Utes at R...
Head coach Kalani Sitake of the Brigham Young Cougars looks on in a game against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium on November 24, 2018 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – BYU head football coach Kalani Sitake enters his fourth season as the head man of the Cougars. Since taking over as head coach in December of 2015, Sitake has yet to beat the Cougars rival, the Utah Utes.

All three games have been close in terms of the final score, but the Cougars haven’t come out on the winning end yet.

BYU is looking to get their first win against Utah with Sitake as head coach this Thursday night in Provo.

If BYU does come away victorious against the Utes, it won’t be Sitake’s first taste of victory in the rivalry game. Sitake has experienced the game from all angles. From growing up as a BYU fan to Cougar captain to assistant coach and now the head coach at BYU.

Let’s take a look over the years at how Sitake has fared in the rivalry from all the different positions he’s been involved with this historic game.

BYU playing career

Sitake committed to LaVell Edwards and the BYU program over the Iowa Hawkeyes when he was a prep standout living in Kirkwood, Missouri.

In four games, Sitake posted a 2-2 record against the Utes. His first experience of the rivalry as a player was in 1994 which was the second of two consecutive Ute victories with the final scoring ending up 34-31.

Sitake’s most memorable game in the rivalry was the 2000 contest at Rice-Eccles Stadium. In LaVell Edwards’ final game, Sitake was a team captain and key piece in the backfield that helped BYU win in the final seconds and send LaVell out as a winner.

Victories piled up as an assistant coach

After coaching one year at Eastern Arizona Junior College in 2001, Sitake returned to BYU in 2002 where he served as a graduate assistant. In Sitake’s only year as an assistant, BYU lost to the Utes, 13-6.

Fast forward three years later, Sitake was hired by Kyle Whittingham to be the Utah linebackers coach. Sitake coached the linebackers for four seasons and the Utes posted a 2-2 record against BYU in that stretch. The highlight win was the 2008 contest that clinched the Utes spot in a second BCS bowl game.

In 2009, Gary Andersen left Utah to become the head coach at Utah State and Sitake was promoted to become the Utes, defensive coordinator.

As Utah’s defensive coordinator, the Utes lost only one game to BYU and that was in 2009. Sitake’s first year as the coordinator. After that loss, the Utes reeled off five straight wins before Sitake took the defensive coordinator role at Oregon State.

Sitake’s total record in 11 appearances as an assistant for Utah and BYU was 7-4.

Head Coach at BYU

In all three of BYU’s games against Utah under Sitake, the Cougars have entered the game as underdogs against the Utes. This season, BYU is a 4.5-point underdog to the 14th ranked Utes.

BYU has been very close to pulling upsets in the two road games at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2016 and 2018, but they couldn’t finish the job.

In 2016, Sitake, in only his second game as head coach, opted to go for two to win the game down 20-19 with only seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Taysom Hill’s quarterback run was stopped giving the Utes the one-point victory.

Last year, BYU was up 27-7 with over 16 minutes of game time left and the Cougars allowed 28 unanswered and Utah won their eighth straight in the rivalry game.

Total Record

In 18 games as a player, assistant coach, and head coach, Kalani Sitake’s record in the rivalry game is 9-9 overall. Which way will the record go after Thursday night?

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Kalani Sitake Has Experienced BYU-Utah Rivalry From All Angles