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BYU is adding another opponent, but will the Cougars have a full season?

Late Monday, a source confirmed to the Deseret News that BYU and Army will meet on Sept. 19 in West Point, New York. The Black Knights will return the game in Provo at a later date.

BYU’s Talmage Gunther looks for yardage during fall camp Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Provo.
Courtesy BYU Photo

PROVO — Another hot August day and midmorning practice in the bright Provo sunshine came and went for the BYU Cougars on Monday without their school announcing any additions to their official four-game schedule for the 2020 football season.

No matter, said a couple players and an assistant coach who spoke to reporters in a video conference after the Cougars started their third week of preseason training camp. They are as determined to play football this fall as BYU brass seems to be.

“Yeah, I have a lot of trust in our administration and in Tom Holmoe the athletic director here,” said junior receiver Gunner Romney. “He has been working day in and day out to get us a full schedule. And so we are pretty optimistic about where we are at in regards to the season. We are really hoping for a full season and I think we will get it.”

Later Monday, a source confirmed to the Deseret News a report in the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York, that BYU and Army will meet on Sept. 19 at Michie Stadium in West Point, New York. The source said Army will return the game in Provo at a later date yet to be determined.

A home-and-home series with Army is something BYU officials have worked on for quite a while, and makes perfect sense since the Cadets have also had a good portion of their schedule canceled.

Adding Army would give BYU a fifth game. Problem is, the Cougars could be running out of possible opponents. The Big 12 is pretty much booked, with the exception of Baylor, it appears, and one of BYU’s fellow independents — long seen as part of Holmoe’s fallback plan — reportedly is close to 10 games without the Cougars on its schedule.

“As I told our parents, we currently have a really good 10-game schedule when I look at the schedule on paper,” Liberty coach Hugh Freeze told the website ASeaofRed.com.

Freeze said Monday the Flames will open the season on Sept. 19 at Western Kentucky; the website speculated that the 10th and final opponent will be Western Carolina.

FBSchedules.com reported Monday that five ACC schools, including Notre Dame, still need nonconference opponents. So there’s still hope for BYU to get at least one Power Five team on its schedule.

In Provo, BYU offensive line coach Eric Mateos, who has spent time coaching at LSU and Arkansas of the SEC, and Texas State of the Sun Belt Conference, said all indications are that the Cougars are playing ball.

“I got a lot of connections in the Southeastern Conference, and in the Sun Belt. They just have that slogan, ‘It just means more.’ It means a lot down there to those people, to those economies in the South, those communities,” Mateos said. “Far as I know, we are playing, and everybody is under the impression that we are going (to play). It was a little iffy for a few days, but I think when some of the commissioners and some of the other presidents around the South said, ‘No, forget it, we are going,’ I think everybody’s vibes changed a little bit.”

In other words, nobody is doubting Holmoe’s ability to put a season together. Not yet, anyway. But time is slipping by.

“Honestly, we are just getting our minds right to see whoever we get,” said running back Tyler Allgeier. “We will get our minds right for whoever our athletic director, or whoever is in charge of that, whoever they get. We will be ready to play whoever shows up.”

Because BYU is the only team in the West still playing, conventional wisdom is that Holmoe will have a difficult time getting another couple of teams to make the long trip to Provo. To date, only Troy (Sept. 26), Houston (Oct. 16) and North Alabama (Nov. 21) remain on BYU’s 2020 home schedule.

Romney told the Deseret News on Monday the Cougars would rather play the majority of their games on the road than have no games at all.

“Man, I mean, everybody loves the home games. Everybody loves the home fans, and I would love to play in front of them,” Romney said. “But when it comes down to it, I just want to play football. I know a bunch of people here want to play football. You know, we could go line it up at a park with no fans, just in the middle of nowhere, as long as we were playing something, and I would be happy with it. So if we have to travel to fill our schedule, then I am all in as long as we are playing.”

BYU’s opener, for now, is three weeks from Monday. Are the Cougars ready?

“I don’t think we could (play) from a being-in-shape standpoint, in my opinion,” Mateos said. “I think we still need these last three weeks of camp to play ourselves into playing shape, be able to sustain drives. Those are the things that I look for from my perspective, just from my unit.”

Mateos said the offensive line “could play a nine-, 10-play drive with some success. I don’t think we could go 12, 14, so from an in-shape standpoint, that is how I feel. But from a mental preparation standpoint, I think we are in a really good spot.”