PROVO — They’ve lost half their numbers but remain positive and capable.
Tight end coach Steve Clark likes the direction of that BYU position group heading into the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl this week.
Clark said this despite losing JJ Nwigwe early, Moroni Laulu-Pututau on the first offensive series at Washington and freshman Hank Tuipulotu to an ACL injury a few days later.
BYU will take on Western Michigan on Friday in Albertson’s Stadium in Boise. Using every sliver of practice time allowed by the NCAA, BYU practiced 12 periods on Thursday and Saturday in a week filled with lifts and runs.
“Matt Bushman is a far more developed tight end right now than he was a year ago or even the beginning of the season. He is a more all-around fit for that position and I’m excited for him and what he’s done. I’m very proud of how hard he has worked this year,” said Clark.
Bushman has caught 25 passes for 459 yards and two touchdowns. His catch late in the Boise State game, which was stripped near the goal line, was one of BYU’s biggest offensive plays of the season.
“Dallin has also been very impressive,” said Clark. “For a freshman to come in and do what he’s done is remarkable. He has taken on some of the most talented, physical defensive ends in the country and while he may not have won all those battles, it has made him better and I’m looking forward to seeing his continued progress. He has a great attitude and works hard at his craft.”
Holker, the record-breaking receiver at Lehi High School, has 18 catches for 215 yards and 1 touchdown.
Like most of BYU’s offense, the season has taken its toll of injuries like that of running back Matt Hadley, who broke his leg in the game at Utah. Squally Canada and Lopini Katoa joined Aleva Hifo with limited action because of injuries. “I expect Canada, Katoa and Hifo to be back for the bowl game. We can’t be sure who will for sure be available until next week,” said Clark.
BYU has never played a bowl game in Boise. The more familiar stops have been in Las Vegas and San Diego over the decades.
Clark said the Boise deal has not been negative in the postseason.
“I have not heard one player or coach say anything negative about playing in this bowl game. We, as a team, are very excited and working hard to do our best and are grateful for the opportunity to go bowling.”
Clark made another declaration at the end of the week after receiver Akile Davis announced he put his name in the portal to transfer.
“Everyone on our football team loves Akile and cares about him and only wants what is best for him,” said Clark. “He is respected and his decision is respected. He is graduating, and he wants to go home to Texas and find a place he can play for one year in front of his family close to home and we all support him and will do everything we can to see that he has success. There is nothing there but love for him.”
BYU’s opponent, Western Michigan, ranks 51st in total defense, 72nd in rushing defense, 47th in passing yards allowed but is 103rd in scoring defense and 109th in pass-efficiency defense.8 comments on this story
The Broncos had a three-game losing streak to Toledo, Ohio and Ball State before ending the season with a 28-21 win over a Northern Illinois team that beat BYU in LaVell Edwards Stadium 7-6.
On the other hand, in BYU's regular-season finale, the Cougar offense scored more points (27) on Utah than Washington (21, 10), Stanford (21), Arizona (10), UCLA (10), Oregon (25) and Colorado (7). But, wisely, Clark said it didn't matter because it was a loss.
Bushman and Holker will be needed come Friday afternoon in Boise.