Provo • Having won two of their last three games, the 2017 Cougars will avoid the tag of being the worst BYU football team in the last 50 years.
However, another inglorious feat this team would like to avoid — posting the first losing record in home games since the 2003 team went 1-5 — is still a possibility.
BYU, 2-3 at LaVell Edwards Stadium this year, plays host to UMass on Saturday (1 p.m. MT, BYUtv) in its final home contest hoping to reach .500 in Provo.
“We will try to get this next win and do it for the seniors,” coach Kalani Sitake said Monday. “There are a lot of guys who have played a lot of football for us, and this is their last time in LaVell Edwards Stadium. I remember my last game, so we are going to make it special for them and try to honor them and get a win.”
The Cougars will honor 20 seniors before the game, including four offensive starters, six defensive starters and punter Jonny Linehan.
The offensive starters are offensive linemen Tejan Koroma, Tuni Kanuch and Keyan Norman and receiver Jonah Trinnaman.
The defensive starters are linebacker Fred Warner, defensive linemen Handsome Tanielu and Kesni Tausinga and safety Micah Hannemann. Linebackers Matt Hadley and Grant Jones sustained season-ending injuries when they were starters and will also be honored.
Other seniors are backup QB Young Tanner, tight end Tanner Balderree, linebacker Va’a Niumatalolo and defensive backs Sawyer Powell, Cody Stewart, Hiva Lee and Kamel Greene.
“Yeah, I love the seniors,” Sitake said. “This is their last time in the stadium, in front of our home crowd, and I said it last weekend: Our players feed off our fans. We had so many fans at the Vegas game. These guys will be excited to go out on the field and play for our fans. That’s something that really matters to our players and our seniors.”
The Cougars came out of the 31-21 win over UNLV relatively injury free for one of the rare times this season. Quarterback Beau Hoge will miss the rest of the season with a toe injury, but he was actually re-injured the week before against Fresno State.
Warner said Monday he is battling through an injury, and offensive coordinator Ty Detmer said on his Coordinators’ Corner show that running back KJ Hall will likely be back this week.
BYU says the number of players who have missed significant time due to injury this season is up to 37. Of those, 25 have been members of the two-deep and 13 were starters or projected starters.
Most complete game
Sitake and the Cougars said the 10-point win over a UNLV team still battling to become bowl eligible was their most complete performance of the season. Asked why it took so long to put together a complete game, Hannemann could only shrug.
“It is hard to say,” he said. “You can say a number of things. We had some things go our way in this game, which was good. Some calls, I mean. I can’t say why this game was different than other games. Maybe it is just more urgency with the end of the season and everyone is sick of losing that many weeks in a row.”