BYU will be without the team’s two best wide receivers when the No. 21 Cougars host No. 9 Baylor on Saturday night, sources told ESPN.
Junior Puka Nacua and senior Gunner Romney are expected to miss the game. BYU Coach Kalani Sitake had said earlier in the week that they would be game-time decisions. Romney and Nacua accounted for 60% of BYU’s returning receiving yards, according to ESPN Stats & Info data.
Nacua, who is considered a dynamic NFL prospect, sprained his right ankle and wore a boot during BYU’s blowout win at South Florida last week. Romney, who is also on NFL radars, missed that game with an undisclosed injury, which will also keep him from playing Saturday.
The two were BYU’s leading returning receivers from last season and projected as star quarterback Jaren Hall’s top targets in 2022. Before Nacua got injured against USF, he scored two touchdowns, including a 75-yard run on the game’s first play. Last season, Nacua finished with 805 receiving yards and tied for second on the team with six touchdowns.
Romney is in his fifth season at BYU, and he has accumulated 1,900 career receiving yards and 10 total touchdowns. In former BYU quarterback Zach Wilson’s breakout season in 2020, Romney had 767 yards and six touchdowns. For his career, he has averaged 16.2 yards per catch.
Their absence will leave BYU leaning on its run game, as the Cougars’ Offensive line is the strength of the team. That unit struggled mightily against the Bears in a 38-24 loss in Waco last year, however, gaining just 67 yards on 24 carries. BYU tailback Christopher Brooks, who transferred from Cal, had a breakout first game against USF with 135 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
The Cougars will look to freshman Chase Roberts, redshirt freshman Kody Epps and sophomore Keanu Hill to fill the void at receiver. The absence of Romney and Nacua could also potentially highlight BYU’s stout tight end tandem of junior Isaac Rex and junior Dallin Holker, both of whom are considered strong NFL prospects.