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Cougars arrive in San Diego, looking forward to fine weather, fun and Poinsettia Bowl

Brigham Young linebacker Sae Tautu (31) greets BYU fan Kerry Olsen before an NCAA football game between Boise State and Brigham Young in Boise on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.
Brigham Young linebacker Sae Tautu (31) greets BYU fan Kerry Olsen before an NCAA football game between Boise State and Brigham Young in Boise on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.
Nick Wagner, Nick Wagner

PROVO — The BYU Cougars traveled Friday to the balmy climes of San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl.

BYU collides with Wyoming Wednesday (7 p.m., MST, ESPN) at Qualcomm Stadium.

“I’m really looking forward to going to my hometown,” senior wide receiver Nick Kurtz, a San Diego native, said before the team departed. “It’s going to be nice and warm. We’ll enjoy the weather a little bit but most important will be our focus on Wyoming and try to get a victory.”

With trips to SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo on the schedule, the Cougars are trying to strike a balance between enjoying themselves and preparing for the game.

But coach Kalani Sitake isn’t concerned about his team's approach.

“The guys are ready to go. They’re excited to go play the game. They’re excited to get to the warm weather and have fun. We’re going to have a good time,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about studies. You can go have fun at SeaWorld and the zoo. When we practice, we go to work. It’s no different from their life (during school). It’s going to be in San Diego and everything is pretty much planned. It’s not like they’ll be looking for things to do. I don’t think you’ll have to worry about our guys. They’re mature and they understand to focus on the moment and what they’re doing. When we’re at SeaWorld we’ll have fun and get wet, I guess, and when we’re on the football field we’ll work hard and practice. It won’t be hard for us to focus.”

Senior defensive lineman Sae Tautu agreed that it won’t be hard for the team to handle bowl week.

“Some guys can get carried away and lost in the fun. But we play for a team with an honor code and we have certain standards,” Tautu said. “So I don’t think SeaWorld and stuff like that distracts you from a football game. I think we’ll be ready to play.”

BYU will hold its first practice in San Diego Saturday morning at Southwestern College. As per school policy, there will not be any practice Sunday but the Cougars will hold another practice Monday.

The team will hold a BYU Football Fan Fest Saturday from 2:30-4:30 (PST) at the Embarcadero Marina Park North, 400 Kettner Boulevard in San Diego.

Fans are invited to attend to meet the players and coaches, get autographs and take photos. Cosmo and the BYU cheerleaders will be in attendance and there will be prize giveaways.

Kurtz isn’t the only player on the roster that hails from San Diego. Fred and Troy Warner are also from Navytown.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it, getting to see my family and experience the whole bowl experience and be able to hang out with my teammates. It’s going to be fun,” said Troy Warner, a freshman cornerback. “Everybody’s cherishing the moments we have with each other because obviously there are guys that are leaving. We’re making the most of what we’ve got and practicing 100 percent and preparing for Wyoming.”

What’s Troy Warner looking forward to most about his first bowl experience?

“Just being able to practice out in San Diego and playing a game out in San Diego,” he said. “I know the atmosphere is going to be amazing. It’s my first bowl game so I’m just waiting to see what it’s like. I’m going to take it all in and play with my brothers out there.”

The Warners are expecting a contingent of friends and family at the Poinsettia Bowl. And, yes, he’s familiar with Qualcomm Stadium.

“The last time I played at Qualcomm it was my sophomore year of high school in the CIF championship game,” Troy Warner said. “We ended up winning that game. I got my first high school ring there. I want another one there. Hopefully we can re-live some memories.”

While Warner has been to SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo, he’s looking forward to returning with his teammates. But don’t count on him being a tour guide at those places.

“It’s been a while since I’ve been there,” he said, “so I don’t know if I know my way around there.”