Thursday Night Lights

At the conclusion of every Thursday practice, the BYU football team experiences a full role reversal. The first and second team players take their place as sideline spectators, while the scout teams line up across from each other on the field. The ensuing full contact scrimmage has been lovingly dubbed "Thursday Night Lights."

Cameron Jensen stood alongside Ian Dulan and Aaron Wagner watching and supporting the defensive front seven. Quinn Gooch yelled out in excitement after a scout team defensive back laid a crushing hit on a wide receiver. The first team offense was just as vocal in support of their scout team counterparts.

Of course, in addition to the cheers, lighthearted trash talking abounds. First string or practice squad, the defense is the defense and the offense is the offense. A win by one side over the other at any level means plenty of locker room gloating.

"Man, this is all about our scout guys beating their scout guys," said outside linebacker Kelly Poppinga. "We want our guys to beat their guys so we can have bragging rights in the locker room."

"Oh, this is all about pride," smiled tight end Daniel Coats. "This is about our guys beating their guys."

Leading up to the end of Thursday practices, the scout team thinks only of helping prepare the first and second teams for their next opponent. That selflessness disappears when the scrimmage starts, however. The competition gets fierce as each player tries to prove himself worthy of something other than practice squad duty.

"This is Thursday night lights but they hit so hard you would think it was a Thursday night fight," joked Coats. "Every play is a T-off, and I've never seen so many guys hit so hard and possibly risk all of practice in my life!"

"This is more like Thursday night fights than Thursday night lights lately," echoed Mike Hague. "They're just out there smacking each other around, and this is when they get their chance to do it. There are a lot of guys out there that play on special teams that get a chance to smack guys around, and there's a few of us guys that want to get out there but the coaches won't let us. I really want to be out there.

"It's scout team vs. scout team. This really helps determine who really are players. We've had some awesome plays this year and its fun to watch because these guys go all out. It's good football and this becomes an intense game for these guys. That's why we kind of laugh and joke about it being Thursday night fights because it's just one big competition out there."

More than bragging rights are on the line when the two practice squads line up against each other. The coaches use these Thursday scrimmages to allow the scout teams, walk-ons and redshirts to demonstrate their abilities and earn future playing time. Yesterday's scout team standout could be tomorrow's game day hero.

"If you make a big play out here, who knows you might be able to get the chance to play on Saturday," said Coats. "They just want to see who is the better person and be able to talk about who is the better team and brag about it in the locker room."

Some two-deep players like Poppinga, Coats, and Gooch wish they could jump in and knock some helmets. Bronco Mendenhall introduced this scrimmage last year during his first season as a head coach, so the veterans did not have this unique opportunity.

"Man, these guys are lucky," laughed Coats. "They didn't have anything like this back when I was out on the scout team. If we took our scout team back then against these guys, it would be fair because we had the best scout team in the nation. We could have formed our own team and gone out on the road."

The scout offense that Coats is referring to included Fui Vakapuna, Jake Kuresa, and Ben Olson.

"Oh man, it was fun," said wide receiver Matt Smith of the scrimmage. "The defense played well today and the offense was a little off today. Our routs were a little off and the passes were a little off. It's nothing big, and we'll get them next time. This was the first time I played. I'm usually bored on Thursdays so this was really fun."

In today's contest, defense came out on top, which delighted none more than Gooch and Poppinga. Click on the following links to hear these two players give a run down of the scout team performance:

Gooch Interview:

Poppinga Interview:


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