How Much Does TCU Loss Change Outlook Of BYU Football’s Season?

Oct 15, 2023, 6:09 PM

FORT WORTH, Texas – The 44-11 loss to TCU was a big setback for BYU football.

Everything that you thought you knew about this BYU team suddenly went out the door after that blowout setback to the Horned Frogs.

After a hard-fought comeback win at Arkansas last month, BYU appeared to be a lock to go to the postseason. A month later, there’s some doubt that the Bowl Season remains in the cards for the Cougars.

Kalani Sitake is willing to “pivot” and make changes for BYU football

The urgency that BYU lacked against TCU out of a bye week can’t be on display in any game going forward. In the words of QB Kedon Slovis, “Don’t let one loss to TCU turn into two.”

So, where does BYU go from here?

The question is far easier to ask than actually getting answers. But head coach Kalani Sitake appears open to change.

“Sometimes you have to pivot and figure out other ways to do things. You just can’t keep doing the same things and expect the results to change. So we definitely have to pivot and do some things,” said Sitake after Saturday’s 44-11 loss to TCU. “But they’re all within the realm of our capabilities. You know what I mean? I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel. But we do have to do some things differently and to get stops on defense, to get pressure. And on offense to get points on the board. We’ll figure it out.”

No time to waste

Sitake and his staff have to figure out things quickly. They are staring down a schedule that is the sixth toughest remaining in college football.

Then when you look at the stats, BYU is near the bottom in many areas. For total offense, they are 121st nationally at 306.0 yards per game.

BYU’s struggling rushing attack is 129th at 67.5 yards per game.

After the struggles at TCU, the defense suddenly isn’t faring much better as they are 96th in total defense (398.0), 97th in passing yards allowed, and 69th in scoring defense (26.0).

Sitake is looking at the coaches to bring the change.

“We have the players and the talent to do it. That’s our job as coaches to get that done. So I’ve got to do a better job and I gotta help these guys out. Because they give me the effort, they give me the energy, and we’ve got to figure that out.”

Do the issues start at quarterback?

Quarterback Kedon Slovis placed a lot of the blame for BYU’s struggles on himself. It’s not solely on Slovis, but he has to get better.

If there are struggles against a Texas Tech defense next week that is 79th nationally in passing yards allowed, does BYU “pivot” to backup quarterback Jake Retzlaff?

There was no indication of BYU considering Retzlaff against TCU. The junior college transfer wore his orange hat and headset throughout the entire afternoon.

BYU wants to maintain Retzlaff’s redshirt season this year. But if Slovis’ struggles continue, it might need to be a move that BYU considers.

Look at week one as an example. BYU turned to a true freshman LJ Martin for a spark at running back while Aidan Robbins was struggling.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to find a spark from the QB spot for one game.

The way Slovis performed on Saturday could leave BYU home for the holidays with no bowl game.

Slovis performed well in the first month of the season. It hasn’t helped his efforts to be in a one-dimensional offense that has no sign of a consistent ground attack.

He’s taken some big hits this year and has always got back up. But there’s a needed urgency for BYU heading into Texas Tech week. It’s a must-win for BYU’s bowl outlook.

So if there are struggles, BYU has to be willing to look at Retzlaff for a game.

But Sitake is quick to acknowledge the issues go beyond the quarterback.

“He’s been through a lot of adversity in football in the past. I’m not worried about his mentality or his mindset,” Sitake said on Slovis. “I just think we’ve got to help him. This is not a one-player problem. This is a problem where we’ve got to do it together as a team; coaches and players.”

BYU football has a tough schedule ahead of them

On defense, BYU has to find a way to generate more of a pass rush.

BYU is 14th in the Big 12 in team sacks and 122nd nationally averaging 1.17 per game. That’s not enough while navigating a Power Five schedule.

In the past, BYU always had “get right” games in the back half of the schedule as an Independent. That’s nowhere to be found this season on a schedule that features games against Texas and Oklahoma.

“I will tell you that coaches, we’ve got to do our part. We’ve got to be much better and that starts with me,” said Sitake. “So I gotta reassess a lot of things for me as a coach and try to find ways to get these guys to play their best because when they are playing at their best, we’re pretty dang good and we just didn’t show it today.”

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 Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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How Much Does TCU Loss Change Outlook Of BYU Football’s Season?