Provo • Freshman quarterback Joe Critchlow earned the right to start another game after he led BYU to a 31-21 win over UNLV last Friday, coach Kalani Sitake said Monday in his weekly press briefing.
Besides, there isn’t another realistic option in a season filled with injuries for BYU’s quarterbacks.
Sitake said that redshirt sophomore Beau Hoge will not play in BYU’s remaining two games because of a toe injury that he suffered against Utah State and re-aggravated in the 20-13 loss at Fresno State on Nov. 4.
“That [toe injury] was combined with his concussion,” Sitake said. “It has kind of been a lingering thing. It got worse [in] the Fresno game. It is bad enough that with the time it takes to heal from it, he won’t be back.”
The Cougars (3-8) play host to UMass (3-7) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in their final home game of the 2017 season. They finish the season on Nov. 25 at Hawaii and will not go to a bowl game for the first time since 2004.
Sitake said that Critchlow will be the starter, with fellow freshman Kody Wilstead as his backup and redshirt sophomore Koy Detmer Jr. as the third-stringer. Austin Kafentzis, the former Jordan High quarterback, is now listed as a starting halfback, along with the injured KJ Hall.
“That’s pretty much the depth chart there [at QB],” Sitake said.
UMass at BYU
When • Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
Critchlow, from Franklin, Tenn., returned from a church mission to Montreal, Canada, in June. He completed 14 of 22 passes for 160 yards and a touchdown, with no interceptions, against UNLV.
“Joe did well. I thought he played a good game, but wasn’t perfect,” Sitake said. “He made some mistakes.”
Sitake said Critchlow made one bad throw that probably should have been intercepted, and a bad decision on a third-and-2 play when he pulled the ball from Squally Canada and tried to throw it to Aleva Hifo, who dropped it.
“But I thought he protected the ball. I thought he threw the ball where only our receivers could catch it. And for a guy that has no experience, especially starting, I was really impressed with his ability to run the game,” Sitake said. “He looked like he was having a great time. It is hard to imagine that a few months ago this guy was on a mission with a name tag on. But it was nice to get him the reps and get him an opportunity to play.”
Because he has not played yet, Wilstead could theoretically still call this season his redshirt year and have four seasons of eligibility remaining. But Sitake reiterated what offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said last week: Wilstead does not want to redshirt and wants to play if the opportunity arises.
“Not a factor,” Sitake said. “We are just going to go with it. If [Wilstead] has an opportunity to play, then he will get in the game. So, pretty much the redshirt is off for him, is what we are dealing with right now.”
Koy Detmer Jr. was often seen coaching up Critchlow on the sidelines during the UNLV game, and Sitake said the offensive coordinator’s nephew has adjusted well to his role as the scout team quarterback and an emergency quarterback if more starters get hurt.
“Koy is probably one of the most unselfish people I have ever been around,” Sitake said. “It is all about the team with him.”
The Cougars took advantage of the rare great weather in Provo on Monday and practiced outside for the first time this month. Offensive lineman Tuni Kanuch, linebacker Fred Warner and safety Micah Hannemann, all seniors, all addressed the media Monday and said UMass will provide a good challenge on Saturday.
The Minutemen have won three of their last four games after starting the season 0-6. BYU beat UMass 51-9 in Provo last year but this is an altogether different team, Sitake said.