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Beleaguered BYU will face streaking East Carolina without two key offensive stars

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said running back Chris Brooks and receiver Kody Epps will miss Friday night’s game with injuries

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BYU receiver Kody Epps fights for yardage during a game against Utah State in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Brigham Young Cougars wide receiver Kody Epps (0) runs on Utah State Aggies cornerback Michael Anyanwu (22) in Provo on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Just when it appeared things couldn’t get much worse for BYU’s beleaguered football team, the Cougars acknowledged after Tuesday’s practice that they will be without two key starters on offense against East Carolina.

Offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said that starting running back Chris Brooks and co-starting wide receiver Kody Epps sustained injuries during the 41-14 loss to Liberty last week and will not play against the 5-3 Pirates at 6 p.m. Friday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“Neither one of them (is) going to play,” Roderick said. “They are both out.”

“It was good last week. I don’t think the shoulder had anything to do with why we didn’t play well. … He is throwing the ball well and looks good. I think he is 100%.” — BYU OC Aaron Roderick on QB Jaren Hall.

Brooks is BYU’s leading rusher, having picked up 463 yards on 76 attempts for a 6.1 average. He is second on the team in touchdowns, with five. He left in the second quarter with a hamstring issue and did not play in the second half.

Epps leads BYU in receptions (39), receiving yards (459) and touchdowns (6) and is averaging 11.8 yards per catch and 57.4 receiving yards per game. He left the game last Saturday with a few minutes left and seemed to be favoring his right arm and/or shoulder.

When asked if either injury is long term, Roderick replied: “Brooks, not long term; Kody, not sure.”

On a more positive note, Roderick said during his Coordinators’ Corner program Monday that senior receiver Gunner Romney is getting closer to returning after having missed the losses to Arkansas and Liberty.

“I was told this morning that they expect him to play, but it still depends on how he does in practice this week,” Roderick said. “But yeah, I was told this morning that we are expecting to have him.”

Romney, who was expected to combine with Puka Nacua when the season started to give the Cougars a potent one-two receiving punch, has appeared in only two games. He has caught five passes for 59 yards.

Nacua said Monday that he is “feeling pretty good” and expects to play Friday for a BYU offense that went the final three quarters against Liberty without scoring.

“We had a nice recovery day (Sunday),” Nacua said. “I love to play this game of football. It is something that I have been doing for a long time. There are bumps and bruises that come along with it and sometimes there are some good hits out there and you have to definitely take some (hits) you can’t prepare for. My teammates and my brothers have done a good job preparing me for what I get out there.”

Roderick said coaches weren’t second-guessing themselves about having Epps in the game when it was well out of reach.

“No, no, we were trying to play. We gotta be more competitive, so we were not interested in subbing there,” he said. “We were playing so poorly that we needed to just be competitive. So that was not a time to sub.”

Brooks had three carries for 26 yards against the Flames; Epps had five catches for 36 yards — 27 of those yards came after the catch.

Quarterback Jaren Hall was 16 of 34 for 187 yards and two touchdowns, but missed open receivers several times over the middle and acknowledged afterward that it wasn’t one of his better performances. 

Roderick said Hall hasn’t missed a rep through two practices this week and should be good to go against the Pirates.

Hall’s sore shoulder “is better, yeah,” Roderick said. “It was good last week. I don’t think the shoulder had anything to do with why we didn’t play well. … He is throwing the ball well and looks good. I think he is 100%.”

Roderick said he’d love to get other QBs some playing time, but circumstances haven’t allowed it.

“We haven’t really had a chance to take Jaren out this year yet. There hasn’t been an opportunity yet,” he said. “I can’t think of a game where we could have taken him out. There was no thought of taking him out (against Liberty). We didn’t sub anybody on offense. We played our starters all the way to the end.”


Cougars on the air

East Carolina (5-3) at BYU (4-4)

Friday, 6 p.m. MDT

LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM