BYU head coach Kalani Sitake held his weekly press conference on Monday morning to talk about what he took away from his team's 55-53 win over Toledo and look ahead to their game against Michigan State this Saturday in East Lansing, MI.
Coach Sitake told the media on Monday that he is still waiting for his team to put together a complete game. He said the pieces are there and he's seen what he wants to see but the Cougars have yet to do it as a whole through their first five games of the season. Despite that, Sitake says he'll take a win any day.
"I’m good with the close games if we win," Sitake explained. "But I’d be a lot happier if we played clean in all phases. I was really happy with the offense and the progress they made, especially when there were a lot of people questioning them a few weeks ago. I’m excited about that. The defense has done some great things in the past, so we’d like to return to that. The special teams have been solid—to have two kickers be able to kick game-winning field goals for us is huge. We just need to play a complete game as a group."
BYU's lack of a pass rush clearly hurt the Cougars in their narrow win over Toledo. They were unable to get to Rockets quarterback Logan Woodside and he made them pay to the tune of 505 yards passing with a 78.9% completion percentage. Sitake says his players know what they have to do. It's now a matter of them taking what they've been taught and employing on gameday.
"The D-line just has to play the game like they practice and we’ll be fine," Sitake said. "All of the stuff we do in our drills and all of the stuff we did in practice today, all of that carries into the game. And when they get into the game, they have to do it with the technique. They have to. Otherwise, it’s not going to work.
"This defense will only work if the D-line dominates the line of scrimmage and you can only dominate the line of scrimmage with the technique that we’re teaching," Sitake continued. "Effort and hard work...gets you places, but that’s already a given. The technique and fundamentals of the game at the line of scrimmage have to be physical and you have to be able to do what we’re asking you to do. Otherwise it’s not going to work."
In contrast, BYU's offensive line had their finest performance of the season, paving the way for Jamaal Williams to set the single-game record for rushing yards with 285 and adding five touchdowns. Sitake praised offensive line coach Mike Empey and Williams for their efforts.
"I think Coach (Mike) Empey has done a great job with the O-line," Sitake said. "They got bigger and stronger, but assignment-wise, they were able to get on blocks and get a body on body. When you allow Jamaal to just run and people are trying to tackle him with just their arms, it’s not going to work out too well for them."
BYU will head to East Lansing, MI to face Michigan State on Saturday afternoon (1:30 PM MDT on ABC). The Spartans are reeling after losing back-to-back contests to Wisconsin and Indiana and Coach Sitake believes his team has something to prove against their Big Ten foe.
"They are a great program," Sitake stated. "They’re big, physical, strong guys.They’re coming off an overtime loss. I know they’ll be anxious to get home and be excited to play this game. We’re expecting a physical game and it’s going to be a lot of fun. We’re coming off a win and our defense has something to prove, so this is a great week to do it."