Unbeaten BYU to play unbeaten Coastal Carolina on Saturday

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Brigham Young quarterback Zach Wilson (1) runs the ball for the Cougars, in football action between the Brigham Young Cougars and the UTSA Roadrunners, at Lavell Edwards stadium, Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020.

Unbeaten BYU has added another game to its 2020 football schedule.

The Cougars, No. 13 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, have lined up an agreement to play undefeated and No. 18 Coastal Carolina on Saturday in Conway, S.C.

Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. MST, and will be televised on ESPNU.

ESPN first reported the matchup.

“We have said from the very beginning this year that we want to play games, and I know our guys are excited to have this opportunity to play on Saturday against a great opponent in nationally ranked Coastal Carolina,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said in a statement. “This is a really well-coached team with an outstanding quarterback. I know [Coastal Carolina coach] Jamey Chadwell will have his team ready to go, and we’re working hard to prepare to share the field with them. I think we are all grateful for the chance to give the players on both teams another chance to play football this weekend.”

The 9-0 Cougars have been seeking another opponent to help fill out their schedule for weeks, but the issue took on new urgency last week when BYU failed to crack the top 12 in the first CFP rankings of the season, putting its New Year’s Six bowl hopes in jeopardy.

Coastal Carolina (9-0) is in similar straits, and the Chanticleers suddenly had an opening on Saturday when Liberty was forced to officially cancel its matchup with Coastal Carolina on Thursday because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the Flames’ roster.

“It’s very sad that, this late in the season, for two great teams that are having great seasons, for one of them not to be able to play,” BYU athletic director Tom Holmoe said after the matchup was announced. “One of the things that was really cool, at maybe 7:15 [Thursday] morning, I got a phone call from the athletic director at Liberty, Ian McCaw, and he is congratulating BYU on the opportunity to play in the game and wishing us good luck.”

When news of Liberty’s COVID-19 issues surfaced online on Wednesday afternoon, BYU players and coaches took to Twitter to tweet out eye emojis. It caused many to speculate if the Cougars could snag Saturday’s game, but Liberty was waiting on more test results, which were expected to be completed Thursday morning.

Holmoe, who had been putting out other feeders throughout the week, actually got a heads-up from a friend about the potential game Wednesday morning.

While the matchup wasn’t officially announced until Thursday morning, BYU got a head start — the equipment truck left for South Carolina around midnight.

In fact, contracts haven’t even been finalized yet. But Holmoe isn’t too worried about that, he and Coastal Carolina athletic director Matt Hogue will work it out later.

“We just got together and said ‘we’ll get down there somehow. We’re not going to ask for payment or anything, just are you willing to come back and play at Provo at some time so it’s a home-and-home,’” Holmoe said. " And he said yes. I said ‘OK, we’ll work it out, we’ll work it out later. We’ll work it out after the season.’”

Although BYU had been on a second bye week before the last-minute game was arranged, the Cougars continued practicing this week, just hoping an opponent would open up.

The hard work paid off.

Travel arrangements have not been finalized yet, but the Cougars will have one more practice Thursday before hitting the road. BYU has a matter of days to study up on the Chanticleers.

Coastal Carolina, sitting in first place in the Sun Belt Conference, is coming off of a 49-14 win last week on the road at Texas State, which BYU also has played this season. The 9-0, No. 8 Cougars (AP) beat Texas State 52-14 at home.

The quick turnaround shouldn’t be an issue as the Cougars have been very open about their “any team, any time, any place” mentality.

Once again, as was seen when the original 2020 schedule was torn to tatters, Holmoe was quick to make things happen. The Navy game was made possible in less than 24 hours; this time Holmoe moved even faster.

Now, the Cougars find themselves in a Top 20 matchup that features two of the three 9-0 teams in the nation.

For Holmoe, who’s been working tirelessly to add another game to the schedule, it was emotional for the 15-year AD to see it all come to fruition in this situation.

“Early in the season, I just knew that this team had something going — they could be really special,” Holmoe said. “And who knew?”