Everything BYU’s Kalani Sitake Said Heading Into Independence Bowl

Dec 17, 2021, 4:38 PM
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)

SHREVEPORT, La. – BYU football head coach Kalani Sitake is fresh off of a contract extension and gearing up for his fifth bowl the headman of the Cougars. Sitake’s 10-2 squad, ranked No. 13 in the final College Football Playoff rankings, will close out the 2021 season against UAB in the Independence Bowl.

On Friday, Sitake addressed the media and was asked various questions in advance of the Saturday tilt his BYU football program has with the Blazers.

Here’s what Sitake had to say.

Kalani Sitake on going up against UAB’s Bill Clark

“Bill has a great reputation in college football and the coaching world. I’ve known of him and seen a lot of the things he’s done with his program. It’s been an honor to meet him and to get to know him on a personal level. Not just him, but if you look at his coaching staff and what wonderful people they have running that program, including their athletic director. It’s really cool. If anyone understands what we’re doing it’s coaches. So, being able to talk and share and not worry about game planning but to express an appreciation for each other. I appreciate him because he wants to make a living mentoring young men and adults and that’s something I really appreciate.”

Where BYU football improved during the bowl preparation

“I think we probably got a little healthier on the offensive side, but on the defensive side not as much. Everyone is banged up right now, so going into this last game I think we have a good number of guys and contributors that will help us in this game. I don’t really focus on the outcome of the game as much as I am about the guys being up and ready to play the game at their very best. For us, focusing on the fundamentals and the little details that matter the most. So, it’s really the bowl prep allowing us to go back to day one again and getting better. The small detail and fundamentals of the game, making sure we’re assignment sound. All those little things that sometimes become big when you’re shuffling players in and out and dealing with depth, some things you don’t have enough time to focus on the little fundaments of the game. So, this was a good way for us to go back in and review that and make sure we’re taking care of that day one stuff.”

Respect for the UAB program

“Of course. We have a bunch of football junkies on our team, so we love college football. We don’t have an NFL team in our state, so everything is about college football. Our guys love to follow the game and when you see a team like UAB that’s won a lot of games and you have a coach that’s won coach of the year a number of times that’s what we’re focused on and we appreciate. Last year, we played so many in their conference that it carried over. We played La. Tech and UTSA, those games carried over, so we saw them as an opponent that we saw on film and in scouting, and you appreciate good football when you see it.”

The love Sitake has for his BYU football players

“I’m getting old because there was a time when they referred to me as their big brother, now I’m a father figure. I love these guys. I love our players. I’ve said this before that I’ve had great mentors in my life, LaVell Edwards being one of them and he took really good care of me when I was a player for him and so it’s an honor for me to be here. These guys make me a better person, so it goes both ways.”

Being a ranked team vs. an unranked UAB squad

“We’re not really concerned with that stuff. To be honest with you, nobody thought we’d be ranked in the preseason. So, we have our goals we’ve established as a program back in January when we lost a lot of production to the NFL, and all those guys who didn’t come back, people were questioning whether we’d be able to replace a lot of those players. I think it was a challenge for our team, our program and our coaches, but the guys stepped up.

“So, being focused on what we’re trying to accomplish is more important than anything else. I have a lot of respect for UAB and how hungry they are. I don’t think people realize that our program focuses on one thing and that’s being focused on what we’re trying to accomplish right away, not really worried about the future. Not really worried about what other people say, so there’s a number that’s attached to our name that wasn’t there. That doesn’t drive us. That doesn’t affect who we are. We’re focused on playing this game the right way. I want our guys to be here, be prepared, enjoy the festivities and all that fun stuff but part of that is performing at their best. I’m not worried about the outcome of the game. The focus is that we show up and play our very best, that’s it. We can live with the results afterward. These guys know I love them regardless, win or lose. They’ll be able to live with the result a lot better if they know they showed up and played their very best.

“I know it’s coach talk, but we do take it one day at a time and one play at a time, one minute at a time. The focus has been razor-sharp from these young men. Gunner mentioned it, there’s been some chippiness in practice. I think these guys get a little bit jealous when players are playing football games and they’re not playing. I saw it during the bye week when we had a bye that these guys are anxious and just want to get out there and play. I think if these guys wanted to they’d love to play in another bowl game if possible. That’s how these guys are. Last year, after we played in our bowl game against UCF, guys were hoping someone else would invite us to play in another bowl game. That’s the honor I have as a head coach, to coach great men who are always competitive and want to play as many games as possible.”

No. 13 BYU vs. UAB

2021 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl

Date: Saturday, December 18, 2021

Kick: 1:30 p.m. (MT)

Location: Independence Stadium (Shreveport, Louisiana)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM — Extended BYU Football pregame begins at 9 a.m.)

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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