COUGAR TRACKS

BYU, Navy Ready To Send Message That America Can Move Forward Amidst COVID-19

Sep 3, 2020, 12:11 PM | Updated: Sep 7, 2020, 12:58 am

PROVO, Utah – BYU and Navy take center stage in the opening week of the college football slate. This year clearly feels different than any other in memory because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But football is football and no one can take that away from these programs that have sacrificed a lot to get to this point.

The two teams both lost opening week matchups against historic rivals. Navy was set to have a Week 0 contest in Ireland against Notre Dame and BYU was going to open on the road at Utah in a Thursday night showcase.

After losing the rivalry games, Navy reached out to BYU to make a game work, and the first matchup between the Cougars and Midshipmen since 1989 came together in a matter of hours in early August.

Now both teams are excited for the Labor Day night stage that they will have in front of a nationally-televised audience that is craving for college football more than ever before due to real-world trials everyone has experienced in 2020.

BYU and Navy will play in a pandemic, but it won’t be reckless

“I think it’s exciting,” Navy head coach Ken Niumatalolo told KSL Sports. “We still gotta get there. Hopefully, we both keep doing what we’re supposed to, protocol-wise and don’t have an outbreak, you know, the day before. Hopefully, we don’t get cocky and still stay safe.

“But I think it’s exciting. You got two teams, two schools, that are going to press forward. I think it’s exciting to play on national television. Even though you’d like to have fans, I think it’s a great message though to send to our country that we’re going to play, but, it’s not reckless.”

BYU comes into the Labor Day night showdown with a sense of gratitude and relief that the season is finally here. Being an FBS Independent, BYU has made it clear they were going to play in the fall of 2020. But finding games was going to be the hurdle. Having a matchup with Navy, a team that finished last year ranked is an exciting opportunity for the Cougars.

Good Reminder

“Everyone knows this year has been crazy, to say the least,” said BYU wide receiver coach Fesi Sitake. “It’s been a giant tug of war of emotions for many people, rightfully so. Wherever you stand on anything, to me, it will just be a nice sigh of relief to just get out onto the field and play a football game and have some fun. Do it in a classy way -sportsmanship-, with, you know, an unbelievable team, the Naval Academy.

“What a great opportunity for us and a good reminder about what we have in this country and the freedoms we’re able to enjoy. So to play a team like that to go toe-to-toe with them to open it up on Labor Day it’s a great storyline and we’re super excited [about] it.”

Both programs have stepped up their efforts to keep players and staff safe during the pandemic. It was one of the reasons this game together, to begin with. BYU is testing its players three times a week with saliva-based testing and Navy have had their players in a “bubble” on campus since June.

With Monday night approaching fast, the opportunity is there for both teams to let the country know that life, as we know it right now, isn’t the “new normal”. Traditions such as college football will return to its glory and progress out of this pandemic can be achieved.

“There’s not going to be any fans there. The bubble is going to be small. It’s just the players who play, the officials, and everybody else has been tested,” Niumatalolo said. “I think it sends a great message to our country that you can press forward and move on with life but not from a wreckless standpoint.”

BYU at Navy

Monday, September 7th, 2020

Annapolis, Maryland

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL Newsradio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM)

Kickoff: 6 p.m. (MDT)

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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