BYU soccer had already begun preseason camp in August when the underside seemingly fell out for the Cougars.
One after the other, conferences started canceling their fall seasons or going to convention video games solely, and BYU, one of many few independents remaining in faculty soccer, was left with solely three video games on a schedule that was as soon as being touted as maybe the strongest in this system’s storied historical past, a schedule that included three Pac-12 groups, one Massive Ten staff and one SEC staff.
“It has been a curler coaster of ups and downs, simply praying that we have been going to play soccer this yr,” BYU junior quarterback Zach Wilson stated this week.
So when Wilson, or anyone else on BYU’s staff for that matter, hears that the unbeaten Cougars have not actually performed anyone so far, he has a prepared response.
“Everybody would say that your schedule is not practically pretty much as good this yr, and I am like, ‘Hey, we’re taking part in soccer. We will not complain,'” Wilson stated. “It would not matter who we’re taking part in. We will present that we’re a great staff it doesn’t matter what.”
The 2020 faculty soccer panorama has already been bizarre sufficient amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, with conferences canceling their season after which reconsidering, video games being postponed, head coaches contracting the virus, as soon as vaunted defenses giving up yards and factors in file numbers and groups taking part in in entrance of a smattering of masked-up followers in stadiums usually crammed to the brim.
For BYU, although, it is virtually as if the Cougars have performed in a vacuum so far regardless of their 4-0 file, regardless of dominating three of their first 4 foes and regardless of Wilson placing up Heisman Trophy-esque numbers.
In truth, Friday’s highway sport in opposition to Houston at TDECU Stadium (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN and ESPN App) would be the first time all season that No. 14-ranked BYU has performed in entrance of any followers. The Cougars’ season-opening 55-3 rout of Navy in Annapolis was performed in an empty stadium by advantage of Maryland state laws. And their three residence video games at LaVell Edwards Stadium have additionally been with out followers because of Utah state laws, though BYU hopes to have the ability to have followers at residence video games later this season.
“It is bizarre since you go to the video games and really feel like nobody’s watching as a result of the stands are empty,” stated Wilson, who has accounted for 14 touchdowns and thrown only one interception in his first 4 video games.
One in all Wilson’s favourite targets, junior receiver Gunner Romney, stated the Cougars have needed to “create their very own vitality on the sphere” in video games.
“It has been type of eerie and awkward [with no fans in the stands],” stated Romney, who’s averaging 22.7 yards per catch.
And but, BYU coach Kalani Sitake has seen the type of spirit, dedication and edge from his staff that ought to serve the Cougars properly in a season not like some other.
“We’ve got to have that chip on our shoulder,” Sitake stated. “That is type of how we’re constructed, and it would not actually matter what our file is or what our rating is or any of that stuff. We’ve got so much to show. That is simply our mindset right here. … Our mindset relies on we have to show one thing to folks and show it to ourselves.
“It is not a disrespectful factor. We would like a spot on the desk.”
If that place on the desk is a spot within the School Soccer Playoff dialog ought to the Cougars go unbeaten — and solely Clemson, Ohio State and Marshall have a greater likelihood to go unbeaten this season than BYU, in keeping with ESPN’s FPI — that is extra fantasy than it’s actuality.
The Cougars’ lack of schedule energy can be a deal-breaker within the eyes of the CFP choice committee, despite the fact that they have been ready so as to add Boise State and San Diego State in current weeks to get to 10 video games. However a New 12 months’s Six bowl sport would not be out of the realm of chance, to not point out incomes the type of nationwide acclaim that has eluded BYU for greater than a decade.
The final time BYU completed within the high 10 of the ultimate AP ballot was 1996 (No. 5), when LaVell Edwards was nonetheless teaching. The Cougars have been 14-1 that season with Steve Sarkisian as their senior quarterback. BYU’s final top-25 end was 2009 (No. 12).
So what must occur for the faculty soccer world to take this BYU staff significantly with none Energy 5 groups on its schedule?
“I feel it will depend on the way in which that we beat groups,” Wilson stated. “If we’re comfortably beating groups and displaying our dominance and displaying our potential to place up numerous yards and displaying our potential to have explosive large performs, I feel folks across the nation will say, ‘Hey, this can be a good staff.'”
That is what makes the Houston sport so necessary, particularly given BYU’s shaky efficiency final week in a 27-20 win over UTSA.
“We had numerous psychological errors and missed assignments and have been capable of study from a win,” Wilson stated. “It could assist us put that chip again on our shoulder, that we nonetheless have not completed something but.”
No matter what occurs the remainder of the way in which, Sitake stated he’s proud that his staff stayed the course, by no means give up working and by no means give up believing there can be a season.
At one level, BYU was the one college within the western a part of america scheduled to play any soccer video games this season.
“This yr has been so totally different than some other yr, clearly, however the degree of appreciation is what I like probably the most from our gamers, that they are grateful to be right here and to be round one another training and taking part in,” stated Sitake, who’s in his fifth season as BYU’s head coach. “There is a totally different mindset, totally different perspective on issues now due to the pandemic. I feel it type of introduced out to all of us what issues probably the most.
“I simply love that our guys like to compete and like to play the sport.”
And given all of the uncertainty and the winding highway simply to get so far, Sitake has little interest in wanting forward and taking part in the “what if” sport. No less than, as he so appropriately factors out, not when your mere participation in a sport hangs on the following spherical of check outcomes.
“Proper now, if we have realized something by this pandemic, it is to concentrate on the right here and now, on today … as a result of you do not know if you are going to be out of it tomorrow,” Sitake stated.