A week away from Thanksgiving, the holiday has heightened meaning for the No. 8 BYU Cougars this year.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake believes Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what you’re thankful for, but the Cougars had that forced upon them much earlier, starting back in March when spring football was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I think this season, this Thanksgiving can be a little different where that’s been a little bit more on their minds — where we don’t take things for granted as much as we did before,” Sitake said. “It’s a good reminder for us, and possibly good to have that gratitude. Something we probably carry out from here on out and try to stay humble enough to appreciate the people and the wonderful things you have around you.”
Senior Chris Wilcox redshirted last season due to a lingering ankle injury sustained against Boise State in 2018. The California native played just one game in 2019 (against Idaho State) before he opted to redshirt and graduated in April — the first in his family to graduate from college — with a year of eligibility left.
Having been sidelined a year ago, Wilcox is even more appreciative for this season — even if it’s not the one he thought BYU would have.
“I just wanted to be out there,” Wilcox said. “Just being to practice with the boys and just being out there every day is just a blessing for sure.”
NO. 8 BYU VS. NORTH ALABAMA
At LaVell Edwards Stadium
When • Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • BYUtv
But just having the opportunity to play isn’t enough.
The Cougars are taking full advantage of each opportunity, emphasized by BYU’s 8-0 start this season — the program’s best since 2001.
Six of the Cougars’ wins have come behind completely dominating performances. And the same is expected this Saturday when BYU hosts FCS opponent North Alabama — BYU opened as a 47.5-point favorite.
Through each win, the Cougars have garnered more and more national attention. It started with videos of players and coaches dancing on the sidelines as BYU was one of the first programs to play, but has now led to a Heisman campaign for BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, among other recognitions.
But the Cougars aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid.
“We’ve all come together and we’ve talked and we’ve realized we can’t take any of these games lightly,” Wilcox said. “In the past we’ve lost to Toledos and things like that, and we just can’t do that. Especially if we’re trying getting into a big bowl, we’ve got to blow everybody out.”
Style points would definitely help the Cougars in the postseason, especially if they’re hoping to make a NY6 bowl for the first time since joining independence.
“I like winning,” Sitake said. “I want to be at our best and then win the game. And then whatever happens, and now everybody evaluates it, they can see it however they want. I think the most important thing for us is to be at our best this weekend. If that’s stylish to everybody, great.”