BYU wide receiver Gunner Romney left the Cougars’ season-opener on crutches, and that first-quarter injury put Kalani Sitake and his staff in a tough spot when it came to depth at wideout on Saturday night.
“When Gunner went down, that caused some issues,” Sitake said.
There is good news and bad news on that front this weekend.
First, the bad: Romney is doubtful to suit up against rival Utah.
Now, the good: Losing one of the top guns of the wide receiver group for the foreseeable future would normally be concerning, but the Cougars should have both Samson and Puka Nacua healthy on the field Saturday.
The Nacua brothers were largely held out of action against Arizona due to concerns about their health and readiness to contribute. Both men were a little banged coming out of fall camp and the coaching staff decided to hold them out them last weekend to get them ready for this Saturday.
Sitake has now said he feels good about having the Nacua brothers ready for the Utah game.
“The Nacuas, Max Tooley, Jackson Kaufusi — I think the decision was just to keep them out and find a way to get them healthier for next week,” Sitake said. “I’m glad we were able to get them done, but hopefully we can those weapons back for [quarterback Jaren Hall] to use on offense and get some more weapons back on defense. Create more depth for us as a team, as a whole.”
The Nacuas are expected to become big contributors in BYU’s offense.
Samson Nacua came from Utah, where he had a career 1,015 yards and 11 touchdowns on 82 receptions over the last four seasons. Puka Nacua transferred in from Washington, where he played for two seasons and accumulated 310 yards and three touchdowns.
There is good news for Romney, too.
While he likely won’t play against in-state rival, No. 21 Utah on Saturday, the wide receiver has not been lost for the season.
“Good news, he’s not out for the year,” Sitake said. “… Doubtful for the game, but you never know what could happen in the next 4-5 days. We’ll see what happens.”
Romney was the top returning receiver, having put up 767 yards and two touchdowns on 39 receptions. However, Romney’s production was hindered throughout the 2020 season due to nagging leg injuries.
BYU injury report
• Keenan Ellis — The BYU defensive back was carted off the field at Allegiant Stadium and taken straight to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where he underwent testing and spent the night for observation.
Ellis’ head snapped back dangerously, knocking him out as he came into contact with an Arizona receiver on a low and awkward hit.
The CT scan on Saturday night came back normal and by Sunday Ellis was walking again and reporting no pain in the neck or head. On Monday, BYU coach Kalani Sitake said the next step is to put Ellis on concussion protocol.
“The scariest thing was just not knowing [how bad it was], because he was [knocked] out,” Sitake said. “... We ran all the tests and did everything we could and it seems like he’s going to be good. Highly unlikely to play this Saturday, but we’re just glad to get him back and get him healthy. We’ll work on getting him back to full speed, but football is not the thing we’re worried about right now with him — just making sure he’s healthy.”
• Jake Oldroyd — BYU’s kicker, who’s become a staple on the team over the last three seasons, was visibly missing from Saturday’s game. In his place, Justen Smith took care of field goals, kickoffs and PATs.
The decision to use Smith instead of Oldroyd was a game-time decision. The Texas native has had a minor injury that seemed to have flared up on Saturday, but should be good to go against Utah.
“We’re still working with [Oldroyd] on some things,” Sitake said. “We were hoping that he’d be able to kick for us — he did this week — and just wasn’t feeling right today. We were lucky that Justen was able to step in and do that. We have a lot of confidence in him.”