BYU football heads back to Boise for bowl game

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BYU Photo
Freshman quarterback Zach Wilson runs the ball during a game against Boise State on Nov. 3 in the Albertsons Stadium. The Cougars will return to the blue turf for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 21. (BYU Photo)

BYU football has accepted an invitation to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for the first time against Western Michigan. The two teams will face off at the Albertsons Stadium on Dec. 21 at 2 p.m.

“We are excited to have been selected to play in a bowl game and for the opportunity to face a good Western Michigan team in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl,” said coach Kalani Sitake in a press release. “Western Michigan is a well-coached team, and we are looking forward to the challenge of preparing for the game and making a return trip to Boise.”

The Cougars fell to nationally ranked Boise State earlier this season, 21-16, in Boise and finished the regular season 6-6. They will return to the blue turf for their 36th bowl appearance.

John Bramwell, travel manager over logistics for BYU football, said coordinating with the stadium event faculty would typically tie up one individual for almost the entire trip. He added, however, that because BYU is familiar with these individuals from their regular season play, they will not have this issue.

“Going to Boise, we’re familiar with it,” Bramwell said. “So, we’re in a little bit more comfortable position. We’re on a first-name basis with their stadium folks, so that just means so much.”

Bramwell said the Boise State football team may need their football facilities to prepare for their appearance in the First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26. He said this is something BYU will find out this week and then plan and schedule accordingly.

BYU football has qualified for a bowl game 13 of the past 14 seasons. Their last bowl appearance was to the 2016 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego. The Cougars played and defeated Wyoming 24-21.

The last time BYU played Western Michigan was in 1970. The Potato Bowl will be the sixth time the two teams have matched up but the first time in a neutral location.

Western Michigan finished their regular season 7-5 and second in the Mid-American Conference West Division. This will be their fourth bowl game in five seasons. Their last bowl appearance was to the 2016 Cotton Bowl Classic where they fell 24-16 to Wisconsin.

This will be Western Michigan’s second appearance in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. They played in the 2014 bowl where they fell to Air Force 38-24.

“We’re excited to host BYU for the first time and welcome back a Western Michigan program that was a great participant a few years ago,” said Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Executive Director Kevin McDonald in a press release. “This is a fantastic matchup for our community with two teams they will really be able to get behind, along with two young quarterbacks and two up-and-coming coaches.”

Both teams have started freshmen quarterbacks this season, Zach Wilson for BYU and Kaleb Eleby for Western Michigan. Both teams also have head coaches with only a couple of years experience. Sitake became BYU’s head coach in 2016 and Tim Lester became Western Michigan’s head coach in 2017.

“We are extremely excited to be invited and accept an invitation to play in the 2018 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl,” Lester said in a press release. “We know it is a first-class event and are gratified for the opportunity to play on the famous blue turf.”

BYU is placed in a unique scheduling position, however, with the success of their women’s volleyball team. Athletic administration, along with university president and vice president, could potentially have back-to-back athletic events to attend within days of each other, with the women’s volleyball team in the NCAA tournament and the football team’s bowl game.

The Cougars have made it through the first and second rounds of the NCAA volleyball tournament so far. They will host regionals Dec. 7 and 8. If they make it past regionals, they will play in the championship Dec. 13–15 in Minneapolis.

McDonald said in a live press release that the BYU and Western Michigan players will arrive in Boise on Dec. 17 to begin bowl activities, only two days after the NCAA women’s volleyball championship will end.

“We get direction from President Worthen’s secretary on what his intentions are,” Bramwell said. “We’ll get (him and Vice President Richardson) where they need to go. If there’s a national championship involved, they definitely want to be there.”

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