No. 18 BYU returns to action Saturday night after a layoff of almost three weeks while dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak. The Cougars host Troy in a nonconference game in Provo, Utah.
The Cougars (1-0) opened their season with a stunningly lopsided 55-3 victory at Navy on Labor Day, bolting to a 48-0 third-quarter lead while rolling up 580 total yards, including 301 rushing.
After a bye week, the Cougars were supposed to host Army last Saturday but that contest was postponed after the Salt Lake Tribune reported about 10 players had tested positive for COVID-19 and as many as 22 had to be quarantined. Some practices were canceled while others were broken into groups of 10 or fewer players.
BYU coach Kalani Sitake said Monday that “everyone is still in play” to see action against Troy (1-0), which comes in off an impressive 47-14 victory at Middle Tennessee last Saturday.
“We still have a few more tests to go this week, but everyone is still in play right now as we approach the game,” Sitake said. “What’s difficult is when guys test positive, their whole apartment has to shut down and quarantine. Aside from keeping our masks on even at home, I don’t think anything could have been done differently other than moving guys to studio apartments at the beginning of the year.”
One player Sitake hopes he doesn’t have to worry about missing the game is quarterback Zach Wilson.
Wilson earned the Manning Quarterback of the Week Award for his performance against the Midshipmen, completing 13 of 18 passes for 232 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He revealed to reporters on Monday that he had contracted COVID-19 in late June. According to the Center for Disease Control, the likelihood of reinfection is “not yet understood,” but it has been only rarely clearly identified.
“I think I got it from me and some of my buddies having a little neighborhood, we had a bunch of football guys over and we were just having a little gambling, you know?” Wilson said. “Having some fun. And somehow a bunch of us got it.”
Wilson said he experienced symptoms for about four days.
“For me, and the other guys that had it, it was just like a cold,” he said. “Minor symptoms. Just tired, fatigued, all that kind of stuff. So, for us, it was nothing crazy.”
The long hiatus since the win at Navy shouldn’t be a problem according to Wilson.
“I feel like those three weeks went by pretty quick,” Wilson said. “We were really only off from practice last week and we still had our groups to go and throw with,” he said. “So, I still got exactly what I get done in practice except the live reps of going against the defense. Once we get that in this week, I think the guys are going to be ready to go.”
Wilson can also lean on an experienced BYU offensive line that has combined for 120 starts and dominated Navy up front. Sophomore Tyler Allgeier gained 132 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, while junior Lopini Katoa carried 10 times for 80 yards and two more touchdowns.
Troy also romped to an easy win in its opener, scoring 40 unanswered points in its victory over former Sun Belt rival Middle Tennessee. Sophomore quarterback Gunnar Watson led the Trojans by completing 26 of 37 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns.
“We were excited to get off to a good start,” Troy coach Chip Lindsey said. “It was probably the most complete game we’ve played in all three phases since I’ve been here. … We’re excited for this opportunity to play a storied program like BYU.”
–Field Level Media