ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — BYU football coach Kalani Sitake acknowledged for the first time in weeks Wednesday night that it is highly unlikely that Cougars starting quarterback Jaren Hall will play in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday.

After the Cougars arrived in Albuquerque Wednesday afternoon via two chartered flights from Provo, they attended a welcome dinner at The Main Event fun center and Sitake spoke briefly to reporters.

Asked by the Deseret News whether there was a chance that Hall would play against 7-5 SMU at University Stadium (5:30 p.m., ABC), Sitake spoke as if he has seemingly lost all hope for the fifth-year junior to be ready after he sustained a right ankle sprain in the Nov. 26 game at Stanford.

Cougars on the air

17th annual New Mexico Bowl

BYU (7-5) vs. SMU (7-5)

Dec. 17, 5:30 p.m. MST

University Stadium, Albuquerque, New Mexico


Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM

“I think the closer we get to the game, it is going to be hard for me to say yes to that one,” Sitake said. “… We thought on Monday when I talked to you guys at the press conference, we thought there would be a chance. … But it is looking more like (Hall is) not close to performing.”

Hall accompanied the team to Albuquerque, but was seen wearing a protective boot on his right foot. Other times, he was on a scooter.

Multiple sources have said that if Hall can’t go, the starting quarterback will be Boise State transfer Cade Fennegan, a third-year freshman from Dallas.

After BYU practiced in Provo Tuesday afternoon, offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick said that Hall took a step backward in the recovery process Tuesday.

“Yesterday (Monday) I thought he had a great chance to play,” Roderick said. “Today (Tuesday) I would say his chances are not quite as good as I had hoped, but there is still a chance.”

Asked about the other quarterbacks in the room after backup Jacob Conover entered the transfer portal a few weeks ago and committed to Arizona State, Roderick said Fennegan, Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters and Nick Billoups were all getting reps and coaches were “sorting that out.”

“Cade has also been battling an injury that happened in a practice a while back,” Roderick said. “But he is practicing and he is healthy now. Just missing time off (set him back). We are just getting him going again.”

Roderick said who plays if Hall can’t go will be determined by a myriad of things.

“Just who can run the team, run our offense,” he said. “There is a lot to it. It is getting everybody lined up, it is the cadence, it is the different tempos we use, it is making sure everybody is where everybody is supposed to be, remembering a shift or a motion and the snap count. 

“All those guys are talented,” he continued. “They are all good enough to win. It is a matter of who can function efficiently with our offense and with our team.”

Wednesday, Sitake said the team is almost ready to play in the program’s 40th bowl game.

“There is excitement, there is energy. They are ready to play,” Sitake said. “We know SMU is going to be ready to play. This is what it is all about, getting ready for the bowl season and getting ready to play this game. So it is going to be a lot of fun.”

The Cougars will practice Thursday morning at the University of New Mexico’s practice field adjacent to University Stadium in what will be their final full-scale practice of the season. They will have a walkthrough on Friday to make final preparations for the showdown with the Mustangs, who are also 7-5.