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BYU's Poinsettia Bowl opponent to be announced Sunday

Brigham Young defensive back Kai Nacua (12) celebrates after BYU forced a turnover during the first half of an NCAA football game between Boise State and Brigham Young in Boise on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.
Brigham Young defensive back Kai Nacua (12) celebrates after BYU forced a turnover during the first half of an NCAA football game between Boise State and Brigham Young in Boise on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016.
Nick Wagner, Nick Wagner

PROVO — BYU has been contractually committed to playing in the Poinsettia Bowl for quite a while.

The Cougars officially qualified to play in San Diego when they became bowl eligible on Nov. 12.

On Sunday, BYU (8-4) will find out which Mountain West Conference opponent it will face on Dec. 21.

Many are projecting that the Cougars will meet Wyoming (8-4), which played in the MWC championship game Saturday night in Laramie against San Diego State.

Or BYU could take on SDSU, Air Force or Boise State.

However, since BYU and Boise State already played this season (BSU won, 28-27 on Oct. 20 in Boise), it seems unlikely that there will be a rematch between the Cougars and Broncos.

The Wyoming Cowboys haven’t played in a bowl game in San Diego in 28 years, when they lost 62-14 in the 1988 Holiday Bowl to Oklahoma State.

Apparently, the Poinsettia Bowl would be thrilled to see Wyoming back in San Diego.

“Our board members have told this story many times that back in 1988 so many fans from Wyoming came that the governor decided to go because all his constituents were there,” John Chalker, a member of the board of directors for the Poinsettia and Holiday bowls in San Diego, told Wyosports.net. “We are very aware of Wyoming’s strong reputation for travel — and spending money.”

BYU played in the Poinsettia Bowl in 2012 and beat San Diego State 23-6.

SLOW STARTS: For unknown reasons, BYU got off to a slow start in almost every game this season.

That’s something coach Kalani Sitake would like to avoid in the Poinsettia Bowl, no matter the opponent.

“The goal would be to start the first half like we do the second halves,” Sitake said. “We have some time now to prepare for the bowl game. We’ll look for that being our goal.”

On the other hand, BYU has been strong in the second half. In the Cougars’ 28-10 victory over Utah State in the regular-season finale, BYU played well in the third and fourth quarters.

“I liked the way we played in the second half, specifically on defense,” Sitake said. “Offensively, we’ve got to find a way to end drives with points. We’ll see how everything progresses from here in preparation for the bowl game, who our opponent will be. We’ll give our guys some time off to get ready for finals and go from there.”

SENIOR NIGHT MEMORIES: Twenty-one seniors played their final home game on Nov. 26. It was an emotional night for them.

“For me, it’s very sentimental. I walked on five years ago and got cut and all I wanted to do was play in this stadium,” said defensive lineman Logan Taele, who forced a fumble against Utah State. “I wanted to go out with a bang and make my teammates and family and fans proud.”

Wide receiver Colby Pearson scored a touchdown in his final home game.

“I walked on four years ago, and it’s been a dream come true the last four years,” Pearson said.

THE ’STACHE: Sophomore quarterback Tanner Mangum, like many of his teammates, grew mustaches in November.

Mangum, who will earn his first start of the season in the Poinsettia Bowl, had quite a thick mustache going last month.

But he said after the Utah State game, “Once Dec. 1st hits, it’s gone. It’s been a fun experience, but it’s not my best look. I think I’ll move on from it next month.”

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com