Kalani Sitake Sees BYU Defense ‘Not Believing In System’ After Iowa State Loss

Nov 12, 2023, 1:42 AM | Updated: Nov 13, 2023, 3:30 pm

PROVO, Utah – For the third consecutive week, BYU football suffered through a blowout loss.

Saturday night, BYU dropped to 5-5 overall on the year after falling to Iowa State 45-13. Remember when this team was 5-2 at one point?

It’s a distant memory.

BYU football is on a three-game losing streak

Getting blown out against Texas that’s one thing. But allowing 45 points through three quarters against Iowa State? There’s something that appears to be wrong with BYU’s defense.

Head coach Kalani Sitake was candid in his postgame comments when asked what’s happened to the defense that can no longer come up with stops consistently.

Sitake replied, “That’s a good question. I don’t have all the answers to that. I will probably have better answers for you on Monday after watching the film. But my first response to that is probably guys not believing in the system and not believing in what we’re doing.”

That critique is valid. Anyone watching this BYU team right now can see that the defense is reeling.

All three phases of the game for BYU are reeling. The offense tossed an interception on the first player of the game. Special teams had a fumble on a kickoff, penalties, and subpar execution. There’s blame everywhere.

But the fall from BYU’s defense has been a sharp decline.

They opened the season, holding Sam Houston to a shutout. BYU forced five takeaways in their last victory a month ago over Texas Tech. That ball-hawking defense has been missing in action over the past three weeks.

Sitake continued, “There’s a lot of missed tackles, mistakes with the fundamentals. It’s just missed tackles and body position. A lot of guys slipping all over the place, not making plays. Defensively, you have to stop the run. You have to figure out a way to stop the run and we did not do that. They had so many big plays, a lot of it seemed to happen on third down.

“So we’ve got to figure that out and there’s probably a bunch of different ways to get that done. I’m open for all of it and I’m looking forward to fixing that and getting that done by the time we take the field again next week.”

BYU’s defense is lacking any playmaking ability

When asked a follow-up if defensive players weren’t bought into Jay Hill’s defensive scheme, Sitake focused on himself.

“I’ve been around the scheme for a long time, most of my career. The way it works is everybody’s got to do their 1/11th,” Sitake said. “So when your opportunity comes, you’ve got to find a way to make plays. But we’re responsible for that. Me as a head coach, all the coaches on defense; Jay Hill and the rest of them. We have to find ways to get guys to do their part. And everybody’s got to do their part, starting with me. So that’s just not good enough.”

Iowa State redshirt freshman quarterback Rocco Becht passed for 203 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He was sacked only once in the game. That was by BYU captain Tyler Batty.

BYU’s issues stopping the run continued by allowing 234 yards to the Cyclones, led by Abu Sama, who finished with 110 yards.

“If we’re gonna stop the run, this is a gap sound, assignment sound type of defense,” Sitake said. “There’s teams that are out there that are running the same type of scheme and system and they’re having great success at it. We’ve had great success with it early in the season. So gotta find guys that can get it done; coach it the way it’s supposed to be done and then find ways to be effective.”

Player perspective

One of the leaders of BYU’s defense is AJ Vongphachanh. He finished with a game-high eight tackles in the loss to Iowa State. Vongphachanh has been a mainstay in speaking to the media after difficult losses. He was asked if he feels players are bought into the scheme.

“I definitely think so,” Vongphachanh said on the defense, believing in the system. “I know the guys come every day, practice hard and we put the time and effort into it–which is why it’s frustrating. You come out and don’t get the outcome we want. At the end of the day, I do believe that the guys believe and I don’t think that’s an issue at all.”

BYU’s schedule isn’t getting any easier. Next up for BYU is a Senior Day finale against nationally-ranked Oklahoma. The Sooners star quarterback, Dillon Gabriel, accounted for eight touchdowns in their blowout 59-20 victory over West Virginia.

“We have a great opportunity next to play against a really good Oklahoma team,” said Sitake. “But we’ve got to get back to work and try to get some things resolved and find some momentum–especially after coming off a three-game losing streak.”

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.

Take us with you wherever you go.

Download the new & improved KSL Sports app from Utah’s sports leader. You can stream live radio, video and stay up to date on all of your favorite teams.

  • BYU Cougars Scoreboard

  • BYU Cougars Team Leaders

  • BYU Cougars Standings

BYU Cougars

BYU Basketball, Elijah Crawford...

Mitch Harper

BYU Basketball Lands Former Stanford Signee Elijah Crawford

BYU adds a four-star composite prospect to the 2024-25 roster.

8 hours ago

Big 12 Football, Nonconference Games, BYU/SMU...

Mitch Harper

10 Must-Watch Big 12 Football Nonconference Games In 2024

The best nonconference matchups in the Big 12 for 2024.

1 day ago

BYU Football, Isaiah Jatta, Colorado...

Mitch Harper

BYU Football Lands Colorado OL Transfer Isaiah Jatta

Isaiah Jatta committed to the BYU football program.

1 day ago


Brian Preece

Locals In MLB: Oliver Dunn Demoted, One Utahn Stands At MLB’s Highest Level

The Milwaukee Brewers have pulled the plug on the Oliver Dunn experiment, sending Dunn down after he struck out ten times in 24 May at-bats. 

5 days ago

BYU Football, 2024 Road Trips, Puka Nacua...

Mitch Harper

Ultimate BYU Football Trips For Fans During 2024 College, NFL Season

These football weekends are must-see for BYU football fans in 2024.

6 days ago

weber state basketball dillon jones...

Ben Anderson

Jaxson Robinson, Dillon Jones Wrap Up Combine Scrimmages

BYU wing Jaxson Robinson and Weber State forward Dillon Jones wrapped up scrimmage play at the NBA Draft Combine on Thursday.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @kslsports...

KSL Give-A-Thon

The KSL Sports Zone, KSL 5 TV, FM100.3, 103.5 The Arrow, and KSL NewsRadio have teamed up to raise money for the kids being served by Primary Children’s Care!


KSL Sports

KSL Sports Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the KSL Sports newsletter. Get the latest Utah sports news delivered to your inbox.


KSL Sports

Jazz Notes Newsletter: Sign Up Now

Sign up today for the Jazz Notes newsletter. Get insider analysis, game recaps and opportunities to win tickets!

Follow @kslsports...

The Road Home Mediathon 2023

The KSL Sports Zone and are proud to support the all-day Mediathon 2023 at the Road Home, an annual tradition to raise money and other essential items for the Road Home, a Homeless Shelter.

3 kids wearing real salt lake jerseys smiling...

Real Salt Lake

6 Reasons You Need to Experience a RSL Matchday

RSL Games are a great way to spend time with your family with fun activities, good food, and traditions you can only experience at the field.

High angle view of the beautiful Rose Bowl Stadium...

KSL Digital Sales

How to Prepare for the 2023 Rose Bowl

Everything you need to know to plan your 2023 Rose Bowl trip in Pasadena, California. This year, the Utes will face Penn State.

Kalani Sitake Sees BYU Defense ‘Not Believing In System’ After Iowa State Loss