Along with practicing and playing football and participating in events such as the “Big Game Show” when they are in Shreveport, Louisiana, for the Independence Bowl next week, BYU players and coaches plan to check out the local cuisine.
“I think everyone overall is excited for a taste of the South,” said Cougars defensive end Tyler Batty. “I think I can speak for the majority of players on our team that we will more or less eat whatever you put in front of us.”
The No. 13 Cougars (10-2) will meet 8-4 UAB on Dec. 18 at 1:30 p.m. MST on ABC, but before then there are plenty of events and activities on the docket, and plenty of opportunities to eat.
“We played in the Sugar Bowl years ago (when he was an assistant coach at Utah), and the game was fun, but the food was unbelievable,” BYU coach Kalani Sitake said. “I mean, you don’t get this body from not eating. I plan on gaining some weight while we are out there, and then try to lose it all in 2022. It is going to be a lot of fun.”
Added Batty, who prepped at Payson High and served a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Malaga and Madrid, Spain: “On the road, having good food is always great. Everyone is excited to get down there and try some new stuff. Guys who are from the South, they are excited to go home and enjoy some favorites.”
“I am excited to see what is down there,” said offensive lineman Blake Freeland, who noted that when the Cougars were in Boca Raton, Florida, last year and Hawaii the year before they got to sample some different foods for the first time.
“We played in the Sugar Bowl years ago (when he was an assistant coach at Utah), and the game was fun, but the food was unbelievable. I mean, you don’t get this body from not eating. I plan on gaining some weight while we are out there, and then try to lose it all in 2022.” — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake
The Cougars are scheduled to fly to Shreveport on Tuesday and will practice in Louisiana for the first time on Wednesday. That night, coaches and players from both teams will compete “in an array of game show-style competitions, and the audience will have a chance to participate, too,” according to bowl organizers.
The Cougars say they will be “all in” if that includes an eating contest.
“There is not a dish I have tried that I didn’t like,” Sitake said. “So I am going to try it all. I am not picky. I am every chef’s dream; I am always going to want seconds or thirds.”
Both teams will also participate in the annual Fellowship of Christian Athletes Breakfast on Dec. 16 and the “Rally on the Red” Friday night in downtown Shreveport. The night will include the Mardi Gras preview parade, a pep rally featuring a Battle of the Bands, and a free block party concert.
“We are looking forward to participating in the Independence Bowl festivities and getting to know the great people of Shreveport, Louisiana. We are just going to have a great time with it,” Sitake said. “We earned the opportunity to play another game, and so did UAB. I want our guys to go and enjoy this. For some of our guys, this is going to be the last time they are going to play football, so I want them to take advantage of every little bit they can.
“This is an opportunity for us to take them out there early and show them a good time and see what the bowl games can all be about in that area and that region of the country,” Sitake continued.
Final exams and bowl week
As often happens when BYU plays in pre-Christmas bowl games, the Cougars have to work in final exams in the middle of preparations leading up to the 45th Independence Bowl.
Sitake said players and professors have become accustomed to it and will have a plan to make it work as seamlessly as possible.
“Hopefully our guys can get some finals done early,” he said. “I also know we will have guys taking some finals while we are in Shreveport. We will just have to work it out. The guys have done it before. … We thought this might be the case, going to this bowl game, so everybody is trying to get ready and trying to make sure we have things in order.”
Freeland said a lot of players are finishing up final exams this week.
“We always have a lot of time on the bowl trips to do our homework and knock it all out,” he said. “It is not too big of a deal. But at BYU, school is tough, no doubt.”
Tight end moving on
BYU tight ends coach Steve Clark spoke glowingly last spring of the progress tight Bentley Hanshaw was making, but on Monday the redshirt freshman who is in his third year in the program announced via Twitter that he is entering the NCAA’s transfer portal.
“After considerable thought and prayer, I have decided to enter the transfer portal and continue my academic and athletic career at another institution,” Hanshaw wrote. “I am very grateful for my time at BYU and my amazing teammates and coaches.”
Hanshaw, the son of former BYU offensive lineman Tim Hanshaw, has not appeared in a game this season. He played in one game last year, against Louisiana Tech. The Cougars have been loaded at the tight end position the last few years, with Isaac Rex, Dallin Holker and Masen Wake getting the bulk of the reps. Special teams ace Lane Lunt and Carter Wheat are the other tight ends who traveled in the regular season.
Ethan Erickson and Ben Tuipulotu are also in the tight ends room.
Hanshaw becomes the third Cougar to enter the portal since the season began, joining cornerback Jacques Wilson and lineman Cade Parrish.
Cougars bringing back Senior Day uniforms
The Cougars will wear what they call their “Midnight Virgil” uniform combination against the Blazers. That means they will wear white pants and navy blue jersey tops and a navy blue helmet with a gray facemask.
It will be the first time they have worn the same uniform combination as in a previous game all season. BYU has 26 different uniform combinations at its disposal.
The “Midnight Virgil” moniker is a reference to former BYU QB Virgil Carter and the gray facemasks the Cougars wore in the 1960s.