Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Kalani Sitake Show

Tonight my BYU Cougars will face off with the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors in the Hawaii Bowl. Aloha! While I'm hoping for a win, this will cap a somewhat disappointing season either way. It's not all bad, though. If you would have told me that 8-5 was a possibility for this season, I would have taken it. The problem isn't the five losses--it's the teams those losses came against.  First, there was the season-opening loss to arch-rival Utah. For those of you who live outside of the state, it may be easy to overlook how heated this rivalry is. I once saw a Sports Illustrated article that ranked it as the third-most intense college rivalry in the nation, behind only Ohio State-Michigan and Texas-Oklahoma. But the losing streak continued, and it has now been over ten years since BYU emerged victorious in that game. After beating Tennessee in SEC country and USC at home, the Cougars somehow managed to lose to Toledo and South Florida. Then they righted the ship and won games they were supposed to win and some they weren't (see Boise State's only loss of the season). Just when things were rolling, they fell flat against former conference rival San Diego State, whom BYU had historically owned (28-7-1 record before the matchup). If you're counting, the fifth loss was against Washington, which was both expected and acceptable. The problem with this team was the tantalizing show of potential followed by frustrating, inexplicable losses. This has become a hallmark of coach Kalani Sitake's Cougars. The winning percentage isn't too bad, and there have been some marquee wins, but there are also a couple of dreadful losses each year.

I work with a youth group in my church, as an advisor for 14-15 year-old boys. We had the opportunity to take the boys to attend a live taping of the weekly BYU Football with Kalani Sitake show in BYUtv studios. Five years into Sitake's coaching tenure, I'm still not convinced he's the right man for the job. On the other hand, I don't know who else would be. To be the head coach of a BYU athletics program, a coach must live the highest standards of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A head coach must attend church regularly, cannot drink or smoke, and must pay a full 10% tithing on all income. Many members of the Church throughout the world do these things as part of our faith, but not many of them are FBS football head coaches.

On the set, Kalani was charismatic and friendly. He took questions from the audience during commercial breaks and gave guidance to some younger children in attendance. After the taping, we all had a chance to go down and meet the coach.

You can see me because I am a)not blurred out, and b)not Tongan. The rest of the faces are blurred out because most of them are minors and I'm not putting them out on the interwebs.

The funny thing about this bipolar season is that the defense has been not great for a good part of it. But of the departing seniors playing their final game tonight, the two that I think have a legitimate shot of playing on Sundays are both defenders. Go figure. First, safety Austin Lee has received an invite to participate in the East-West Shrine Game, where he'll have a chance to show the coaches his nose for the ball. The other is do-everything DB Dayan Ghanwoloku. Dayan has started just about everywhere in the secondary and has some solid coverage skills. He's not the fastest guy around, so maybe he'll project as a safety. I'll miss those two and their playmaking abilities.

I certainly miss high-level quarterback play. In the past decade, we have been having a recurring nightmare: a freshman quarterback comes in, plays really well, gets our hopes up, and then regresses over the next few seasons. Jake Heaps did it. Tanner Mangum did it. Zac Wilson looks like he might be on the same path. After looking great last year, Zac has created some doubt about his decision-making in his sophomore season. Adding to the doubt is the fact that backup Baylor Romney has outplayed Wilson this season. (Wilson missed four games with a broken thumb.) Romney is--you guessed it--a freshman. Ty Detmer was once thrust into the game as a freshman when the starter got hurt. Two years later, Detmer won the Heisman as a junior. We seem to have some promise at QB right now, but I won't be predicting a Heisman any time soon.

The major focus of my last COMC order was to build my BYU collection. I tried to find photos with the college uniform when I could. This is just my second card of Swiss Army Knife Taysom Hill, who was snake-bitten in college. Seriously, who suffers five season-ending injuries during their college career? I'm happy to see him find a niche, or two or three, in the pros. The Max Hall card, by the way, is beautiful in-hand. The scan doesn't come close to doing it justice.

I managed to pick up five autos from COMC. Fred Warner (top right) is playing lights out for the 49ers this year. This is my second auto of him, but my first licensed one. These are my first Brandon Doman and Dennis Pitta signatures.

The Cougs currently have a 5-game win streak over the Rainbow Warriors, but Hawaii always makes me nervous. I think it's a little PTSD from 2001. That year BYU, led by Doman and Doak Walker Winner Luke Staley, was 12-0 and ranked #9, angling for the first BCS bid ever by a mid-major. They went into Honolulu for the season finale and left with a 72-45 beatdown. Let's hope for better results tonight.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. Those are some solid Cougars you've got there. I'm especially fond of the Warner. He's the talk of the town here in the Bay Area.

    As for the bowl game... I'm pulling for the Rainbows. I've got a lot of family in Hawaii. Lots of my aunties, uncles, and cousins went there. I'm sure plenty of them will be in attendance. It's my mom's alma mater too. Go Rainbows!