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BYU football players were hopeful about top-level bowl invite, now fully focused on UAB

By Jared Lloyd - | Dec 6, 2021

BYU_PHOTO

BYU football players sing the fight song after the 59-14 Cougar win over Idaho State at LaVell Edward Stadium in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 6 ,2021. (Courtesy BYU Photo)

Both BYU defensive lineman Tyler Batty and offensive lineman Blake Freeland were frank when they were asked during Monday’s press teleconference about seeing the Cougar hopes for a New Year’s Six bowl invitation not be realized.

“Honestly, I’d still high hopes for a New Year’s Six bowl,” Freeland said. “It would be a stretch but I was really hoping to get in.”

Batty said: “I think everyone knew, really, our chances on going to a New Year’s Six bowl were pretty slim. You’re always hopeful but now we’re excited to play in the Independence Bowl.”

BYU head coach Kalani Sitake, on the other hand, wasn’t even interested in talking about what might have been.

His focus, as usual, was how things are.

“Our focus is on what we have right at hand, what we can control, which is the game on Dec. 18,” Sitake said. “I don’t have any control of anything besides playing this game. I can’t control what everyone else says but our program, from the coaches to the players to the staff, we have a ton of respect for this opponent and we’re looking forward to this game.”

That means it is all about getting ready to face UAB, a team who is thrilled to be facing the No. 13-ranked team in the country.

“What a great opponent we’ve got in BYU,” Blazer head coach Bill Clark said in the UAB media teleconference on Monday. “There are other ranked teams that they beat this year. I was familiar with Coach Sitake before when he was a coordinator, so we know just how hard these guys play and how physical they are. We were just getting to start watching film on them yesterday and we’re gonna have our work cut out for us.”

Sitake said that he knows UAB will be fired up to get a chance to knock off the Cougars.

“I have a lot of respect for that program and for the university,” Sitake said. “It’s an honor for us to be on the field and to compete against wonderful program like UAB. Bill Clark is an amazing coach. He’s one of the best in the business. I like the way he runs his program.”

It can be dangerous for a ranked team to not take an unranked bowl opponent seriously, something that can hurt a team’s mindset.

Batty explained that he isn’t worried about that because of how this Cougar squad views the sport.

“We’re excited to go out and play,” Batty said. “I think of facing UAB just like any other game we have played this season. It presents a new game, a new challenge. It’s a new opportunity to go out and and play football, the game we love.”

Freeland said that is the mentality that BYU has embraced and it has led it to all of the success it has had all season.

“As a team, I think we’ve accomplished a lot,” Freeland said. “I think in every game we have had come out and tried to play our very best. I think this ballgame is an opportunity to go out there and show our best. We’ll prepare like we have been preparing and just put it all out on the field.”

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