PROVO — It’s been a long nine games for BYU defensive back Troy Warner.
The junior who has struggled with a foot injury was not cleared to play prior to Saturday’s home finale against FCS Idaho State, watching, waiting, cheering on his older brother Fred’s breakout sophomore season with the San Francisco 49ers, and waiting for his rehab to put him into a position to make plays for the Cougars.
Finally, that moment came this past weekend, when he played against the Bengals on a minutes-controlled basis.
“It just feels good to play football,” said Warner, who made one tackle against the Bengals. “It was good being back with the team.
“My reps were kind of limited, so I really didn’t feel much. I felt great; I felt like I could go against the next day.”
That means Warner should be ready for the Cougars’ penultimate game of the regular season, Saturday against UMass (10 a.m MST, FloFootball).
The chance to play is all he asked for. And Warner, a former four-star safety in high school who has also played cornerback at BYU, isn’t taking any snap for granted — even against the 1-10 Minutemen. It’s another chance to play in a season where Warner will be eligible to redshirt while playing out the final four games of the year.
“We really just want to treat this opponent like any other opponent,” he said. “It’s another opportunity for us to continue the win streak we are on right now. I know they haven’t had the best season, but it’s another opportunity to get better and to play our best.”
BYU is 2-1 all-time against UMass, with the Minutemen’s only win coming in Provo in 2017. That includes last year’s 35-16 victory at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
Saturday’s game will not be available on over-the-air or nationally broadcast cable television for the first time in the 2019 BYU season. As the home team, UMass controls the broadcast rights to the first-ever game with the Cougars in Amherst, Massachusetts. And that means the rights belong to FloFootball, a division of FloSports that owns the current contract for Minutemen football.
The game will be simulcast for fans in the upper northeast on NESN, a channel that is available on some higher-tier satellite packages, as well. Otherwise, the only way to watch the game will be to pay $20 monthly for FloFootball.
“Despite numerous attempts, FloSports was unwilling to permit BYU the opportunity to purchase broadcast rights to distribute the game on BYUtv,” BYU associate athletic director Duff Tittle said in a written statement.
Radio broadcasts remain consistent on BYU Radio 89.1 FM, Sirius XM 143 and KSL 1160 AM / 102.7 FM. But the video itself will be controlled by the broadcast that also holds some rights to the Colonial Athletic Association and the Division II Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
When: Saturday, Nov. 23
Kickoff: 10 a.m. MST
Streaming: FloFootball (Josh Maurer, Andy Gresh, Matt Goldstein)
Radio: BYU Sports Network 89.1 FM, KSL 1160 AM /102.7 FM (Greg Wrubell, Riley Nelson, Mitchell Juergens)
Series: BYU leads 2-1
It’s a distraction for fans, media and BYU athletics personnel — though admittedly not one for players and coaches.
In fact, there should be fewer distractions for the players now that the Cougars have formally received and accepted an invitation to the SoFi Hawaii Bowl, which will be played Dec. 24 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii.
But that could also provide some challenges, as well.
“I don’t know if that gives them something positive, or if they lose a little bit of an edge because you already know, and now having something less to play for,” BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes admitted. “The challenge for me, and for us as coaches, is to create a team that wants to show up and play their best every Saturday. I’m just going to continue with that refrain until we get that kind of team.
“I don’t know if that gives them an added bonus or not.”