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BYU WR Puka Nacua’s Status For New Mexico Bowl In Question

Dec 15, 2022, 3:27 PM
Puka Nacua, BYU Football...
BYU football wide receiver Puka Nacua is a game-time decision for the New Mexico Bowl. (Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
(Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The status of BYU wide receiver Puka Nacua is up in the air going into the New Mexico Bowl.

Kalani Sitake spoke to BYU reporters before Thursday’s final practice of the 2022 season. KSL Sports asked Sitake if Nacua, who has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, would be playing on Saturday.

“Puka’s still going through some things. So we’ll see if he plays on Saturday,” Sitake said.

Opt-out or injury for Puka Nacua?

Nacua was the first BYU player that walked into the building for Wednesday night’s New Mexico Bowl welcome dinner. He wasn’t sporting any cast, boot, or crutches. But Nacua has dealt with his share of injuries this season. A hamstring in fall camp, a high ankle sprain in week one, and a lower leg injury in late September.

“He’s been banged up all year,” Sitake said Thursday. “A lot of guys have the Senior Bowl invites and other things to think about combines, etc. So I think they’re factoring all of that in, and some of them are still looking at agents and still haven’t decided whether or not they’re coming out or coming back for another year.”

Before practice began, BYU players and coaches walked up to the New Mexico indoor practice facility. Nacua was not suited up in his practice attire as he walked with teammates to the final practice of the season.

“I just want them to know that we’re here to support them in whatever their readiness level is. Whether it’s health, whether they’re playing their last game, or they’re done already. I just want to be there to support them,” Sitake said.

Nacua has not formally announced his intentions for the 2023 season. But if he moves forward with his commitment to play in the Senior Bowl, Saturday here in Albuquerque will bring Nacua’s BYU career to a close.

Blake Freeland will play in the New Mexico Bowl

Another player that has accepted a 2023 Senior Bowl invite is BYU offensive tackle, Blake Freeland.

Sitake said the 6-foot-8, 305-pound left tackle, who earned AP Third-Team All-American recognition, would be playing on Saturday against SMU.

Freeland has been an anchor along BYU’s offensive line since he stepped into a starting role in 2019.

Wide receiver Keanu Hill is ‘100%’

If BYU doesn’t have Puka Nacua on Saturday, they will have to turn to other options in the receiving game. One of those individuals is Keanu Hill. Hill suffered a wrist injury against Stanford. He’s a full go for Saturday against the Mustangs.

BYU vs. SMU

2022 New Mexico Bowl

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: ABC

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended pregame begins at Noon)

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 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Mitch will be in Albuquerque for the 2022 New Mexico Bowl between BYU and SMU. Follow his coverage on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU WR Puka Nacua’s Status For New Mexico Bowl In Question