It's been a long journey. It's been a good one. —Fred Warner
PROVO — It certainly hasn’t been the kind of season that BYU’s seniors expected or wanted.
The Cougars are 3-9 overall and 2-3 at home. BYU will have its first losing season since 2004 and there’s no bowl game for the first time in 12 years.
But for the 18 seniors on the roster, there’s one more chance to play, and earn a win, at LaVell Edwards Stadium Saturday (1 p.m., MST, BYUtv) when they host UMass.
“It’s going to be kind of a bittersweet, emotional game for all of us seniors. We’ve been here for a long time,” said senior offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch. “We love BYU. We love our teammates and our coaches. It’s going to be kind of that last time to be in that stadium. The stadium is sacred to us. We’re going to miss it. We’re going to miss being able to represent BYU. Probably some tears and then we’re going to try to go for a win because we’ve got that pride in ourselves. No one likes to lose. No matter how the season has gone, we hate losing. We don’t want to lose. We want to win at home and we want to win for each other on Senior Night.”
Among the seniors that will be honored Saturday are a pair of four-year starters and team captains, linebacker Fred Warner and center Tejan Koroma.
Coach Kalani Sitake appreciates the contributions of the senior class.
“I love the seniors. You look at guys like Fred Warner and Tejan Koroma — those guys have played a lot of ball for BYU,” Sitake said. “This is their last time in this stadium in front of our home crowd. Our players feed off our fans. It was nice to see that we had so many fans at the Vegas game (last week). These guys are going to be excited to get on the field and play for our fans. That’s something that really matters to our players and our seniors.”
This senior class has seen a little bit of everything over the years.
“It’s been a long journey. It’s been a good one. There’s been highs and there’s been lows,” Warner said. “But you can’t really enjoy the good times unless you’ve faced some adversity. You never think you’re going to have a coaching change and we did. You never think that we’ll have the season we’re having this year and we did. But we’re making the most of it. We’re coming out every week and still playing hard.”
As for playing in his last home game?
“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” Warner said. “I’m hoping that when the time comes, it will be everything I hope it to be. I know it hasn’t been the season that I wanted or that the fans wanted. But hopefully we can get a good turnout for the last home game. I’m sure there will be some emotion. But I’m excited.”
“There are a lot of dudes that love to play football — Fred, Tuni, Tejan,” said senior safety Micah Hannemann. “We’re doing the thing we love to do. There have been some good years previously with this same group of guys that are seniors now. This year hopefully we can go out as the team that had a crappy season and then ended strong, still fighting every single game. It’s easy to get lackadaisical after you lose a bunch of games. It will mean a lot to win these last couple of games.”
Senior defensive lineman Handsome Tanielu joined the Cougars as a junior college transfer two years ago.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” he said of his final home game. “I can’t wait to see what’s ahead for me but I’m also really sad. This has been my home for the past two years. It’s definitely emotional.”
One of the things Hannemann will miss about BYU is playing at LaVell Edwards Stdium.
“It’s an awesome experience. When I was younger, we’d go to LaVell Edwards Stadium and see people play,” he said. “Now it’s my last game. LaVell Edwards Stadium is my favorite place to play, obviously. We’ve got great fans. Hopefully we get a good turnout for our last home game.”
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Cougars on the air
at BYU (3-8)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MST LaVell Edwards Stadium
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM