BYU Knows Firsthand Understaffed Washington State Can’t Be Taken Lightly

Oct 21, 2021, 12:38 AM | Updated: 12:52 am
BYU Football - Kalani Sitake...
Brigham Young Cougars  coach Kalani Sitake walks off the field after a timeout as BYU and USF play a college football game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. BYU won 35-27. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)
(Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – BYU football is preparing for what many would consider an unprecedented situation going up against an understaffed Washington State team. Earlier this week, the Cougs from Pullman fired head coach Nick Rolovich and four of his assistant coaches.

That leaves Washington State with six full-time coaches at the midway point of the season. Those types of circumstances don’t happen often, you would think.

But for BYU (5-2), they know firsthand that an understaffed team down coaches is still a squad not to overlook. Last season, BYU experienced being down numerous coaches in wins over Boise State and UCF en route to an 11-1 season and final No. 11 ranking.

The reason for the absences in those games was due to coaches contracting the COVID-19 virus.

Despite being understaffed, BYU put together two dominant wins over some of the top Group of Five programs in those games. That’s a reminder BYU coaches are giving to players this week in preparation for the shorthanded Washington State squad that is currently on a three-game winning streak.

“I just finished talking to the team about this. Some of our best performances a season ago, when we lost five or six coaches, on some of these occasions to COVID measures; those were some of our best performances,” said BYU assistant head coach Ed Lamb. “This game is about players. It’s 99% about players and 1% about coaches. Our players know that. That’s what we want to believe, that’s what we do believe and our guys will be fine.”

BYU Football won two games last year without a handful of coaches

In those wins over Boise State and UCF a season ago, BYU had to turn to grad assistants or analysts to take over position groups for the first time. Current linebackers coach Kevin Clune, an unpaid analyst last year, was thrust into a coaching role during last year’s bowl game after all the subtractions to the staff from COVID-19 that included former OC Jeff Grimes.

The same thing happened against Boise State, where student analysts such as Jamison Clark (now at Dixie State) handled position groups.

“These guys [at Washington State] are going to be highly motivated and ready to play,” said BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick. “They’ve got a veteran QB (Jayden de Laura) and you can tell that guy is a great leader. Our coaching staff, we all know that kid; he’s an awesome leader. So they’re going to be ready to play. I don’t think the coaching situation has an impact on the game at all.”

BYU expecting WSU to be more dialed in

BYU is looking to get back on the winning side after dropping their past two games and falling out of the Top 25 polls. Firsthand knowledge of knowing what a team is capable of without coaches is additional motivation for the BYU football team as they gear up for the all-Cougar battle in their first visit to the Palouse.

“We were missing multiple coaches and you know, it was all throughout the week, they weren’t there for practice and stuff,” said BYU DB/LB Chaz Ah You to KSL Sports. “We’re thinking back to what our team had to do [last year]. That’s bringing more motivation. We’ve got to step up, for real. This is on us right here.

“So we know that going into this game, everyone’s probably thinking, ‘Oh man, well this is an easy win now. They don’t have their coaches and they’re gonna be all confused and everything is gonna be all over the place.’ But we already know the talk that’s going in their locker room. And we know what their practice is looking like. If anything, they are going to be more dialed in and more anticipation for the game. So you know, we’re going into this game expecting their best. And they are going to come out swinging, so it doesn’t change anything for us.”

BYU versus Washington State kicks off at 1:30 p.m. and will air on FS1 and KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM). Extended radio pregame coverage begins at 9 a.m. from Pullman.

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

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