Kalani Sitake Lands Signature Win Over Mentor Kyle Whittingham

Sep 12, 2021, 5:32 AM
BYU Football - Kalani Sitake...
PROVO, UT - SEPTEMBER 11: Head coach Kalani Sitake of the BYU Cougars reacts on the sideline during their game against the Utah Utes at LaVell Edwards Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Logan, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
(Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – The passion and emotion from Kalani Sitake during the Cougar Walk and during the game, carried over into the postgame after BYU football took down Utah, 26-17. A victory that capped off a historic weekend for BYU athletics.

But what made it even sweeter for Sitake is that he defeated his mentor, Kyle Whittingham.

Whittingham has owned BYU over the past decade. It had been 12 years since the last time Whittingham’s Utes lost a game to BYU. For Sitake, it was one of the tasks he had to conquer during his five-plus years as BYU’s head coach.

But now, he climbed the mountain and can claim he has the top program in the state. Sitake’s team displayed a winning attitude that they didn’t show in previous meetings against the Utes. When Utah scored 10 unanswered, there weren’t flashbacks of 2018 running through Sitake and the player’s minds. Instead, the focus was to get ready for the next drive and find a way to put more points up on the board.

“There was a huge sense of urgency from the fanbase. It was nice to get the win for the fans and our players,” Sitake said. “I’m just really proud of them. It was a great night. It was a good game. We’ve been on the other side of these games. We feel really fortunate and really happy that we got the win.”

BYU played with the enthusiasm that fans want their team to display in a rivalry. But they did in a calm, collected way that Cougar fans had not seen since the days of Max Hall and John Beck.

BYU not only beat Utah, but they also didn’t cough up the football. Winning the turnover margin by two and not giving up a devastating pick-six or scoop and score. BYU won in every facet of the game. It didn’t take “specials” or trickeration to do it either. BYU won with hard-nosed football, the type of play Whittingham’s Utah program has grown accustomed to over the years.

After BYU’s upset win, Sitake and Whittingham embraced at midfield. This moment shows the change in dynamics of this historic rivalry that now has 95 chapters in the books and the appreciation Sitake has for one of his mentors.

“It was a really good moment. I love Kyle Whittingham. I love his family,” said Sitake. “I’m fortunate that he helped mentor me and brought me in this college coaching game. I really value our friendship. …I enjoyed that embrace after the game. I can tell you what I said to him; I said, ‘Thank you for everything. I really appreciate him and that I love him.’ We’re really good friends; we’re close. …He’s been an amazing coach and a great mentor and it just happens that he’s at our rival school.”

Sitake’s BYU football program won’t see Whittingham and the Utes until the 2024 season At that time, both the mentee and the mentor will field Power Five programs.

BYU is now 2-0 on the season and will face nationally-ranked Arizona State next Saturday night on ESPN and KSL NewsRadio.

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

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