STILLWATER — BYU is bringing its football team to Oklahoma State, so that means the BYU Alumni “Cougs Care” program is bringing its tailgate drive to benefit local charities to Stillwater, too.
This awesome tradition started four years ago when BYU played at Tennessee and BYU alums partnered with the Knox Area Rescue Ministries to do a coat and food drive. Now, that kind of partnership is replicated at every BYU football road game.
“Each tailgate is unique,” said Mary Ford with BYU Alumni’s Tulsa Chapter, “and the service element is always in partnership with local organizations that are already doing incredible good for those in need.”
BYU alums have spearheaded drives for everything from diapers and toys to bedding and socks.
Saturday, in conjunction with Payne County Youth Services and Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma, they’re collecting sports balls. Footballs. Basketballs. Soccer balls. Playground balls. And if someone brought a jump rope, a frisbee or a yoga mat, they wouldn’t be turned away.
“We wanted to focus on something that would benefit children,” Ford said. “It is a time of year when people are more aware of the needs of children, and with our game being Thanksgiving weekend, that was a great fit.
“We also wanted to collect something that both teenagers and young children could enjoy. Since this service project is part of a football tailgate, sports balls seemed like the perfect match.”
It’s entirely possible other schools have alums that do something similar, but honestly, this is the first time I can ever remember hearing about fans from a visiting team doing a service project in the home team’s town.
And BYU alums don’t do it a few times a year. They do it for every road game.
“As BYU students, there is a large sign at the entrance of campus: ‘Enter to Learn, Go Forth to Serve,’” Ford said. “BYU Alumni live all across the nation, and we are ‘Connected for Good.’”
Already this season, the tailgate drives have resulted in big donations, including 1,800 books at Kansas; 1,200 toys at Texas; 40,000 pounds of food at Arkansas.
The goal at OSU: 550 sports balls.
Anyone can donate, BYU alum or not. BYU alums will be tailgating south of Boone Pickens Stadium near the Spears School of Business, and donations can be dropped off there. Or if you are unable to get to Stillwater on Saturday, an Amazon registry has been set up for anyone who wants to help.
“We also found there is a need for athletic shoes for children and youth in the community,” Ford said. “BYU’s sponsoring institution, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, just made a donation for 600 pairs of shoes to Central Oklahoma Community Action Agency, which will benefit Payne and surrounding counties. They also made a donation to Our Daily Bread in Stillwater for 40,000 lbs of food.
“As BYU alumni, we strive to follow the example of our savior, Jesus Christ, to love our neighbor and reach out to those in need.
“These projects are a gesture of appreciation for our host city.”
Sure seems the appreciation should flow the other way, too. What an unbelievable gift is being given to Stillwater and surrounding communities by BYU alums.
Here are some other nuggets to chew on before OSU-BYU gets under way at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Stillwater:
Cowboy(s) to watch: A week ago, BYU had its best rushing performance of the season against OU, going over 200 yards for the first time this year. Linebackers blowing run fits seemed to be the biggest issue, so Collin Oliver and Nick Martin will have to mind the gaps. With a speedy quarterback and a capable tailback, the challenge BYU presents will be similar to Kansas.
Cowboy newcomer to watch: Will Alan Bowman build on the best performance of his Cowboy career? He completed 67.4% of his passing attempts at Houston for 348 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Coming on the heels of a three-interception day at UCF, last week was a heck of a bounce back for the OSU quarterback. If the Cowboys make the Big 12 title game and face Texas and its top-notch run defense, they’ll need Bowman clicking. Another good day might propel him into Arlington feeling good.
Cougar to watch: BYU quarterback Jake Retzlaff has been playing in place of the injured Kedon Slovis. But Retzlaff seems to be gaining confidence. His third start came a week ago, and he threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third. His lone interception was a pick-six, so not good. Still, his speed — he nearly ran down Sooner safety Billy Bowman on the pick six — makes defending him a challenge.
A familiar face in Stillwater: Former OSU starting offensive lineman Caleb Etienne is now a Cougar. He has started three games, though he hasn’t started either of BYU’s last two games. He has played in 10 games this season.
Cool stat going into BYU: Cowboy tailback Ollie Gordon leads the nation with 1,414 rushing yards this season — but he’s not alone at the top. He’s actually in a dead heat with North Carolina tailback Omarion Hampton. He has 1,414 rushing yards, too. Gordon has a chance to set the mark to beat since the Cowboys kick off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and the Tar Heels don’t play until 7 p.m.
Something to watch in Stillwater: The BYU offense went for it on fourth down three times last week against OU and converted all three of them, including one for a touchdown. The other two conversions came on drives that ultimately led to touchdowns. But OSU’s fourth-down defense has been stellar this season. The Cowboys have allowed only a fourth-conversion rate of only .136, second best in the nation.
Did you know?: Before Saturday, the Cowboys and Cougars have only ever played in bowl games. OSU won both bowls, 16-6 in the 1974 Fiesta Bowl and 49-21 in the 1976 Tangerine Bowl. Jim Stanley coached both victorious Cowboy teams.
If you go to Stillwater …: Bring the rain gear. The National Weather Service says there’s a 40% chance of rain after 1 p.m. It will be chilly, too. Highs aren’t expected to rise above 50 degrees. Think of it this way: if what you wore for the Cincinnati game worked, wear it again, and if it didn’t, now’s your chance to improve on it.
If you don’t go …: Saturday’s the perfect day to dig into those Thanksgiving leftovers, provided they survived Friday. But lots of folks need a break from the holiday fare on Friday, so Saturday is a great opportunity to get back into the turkey, dressing and broccoli rice casserole.
If I could be in two places: Take me to Ann Arbor. Ohio State at Michigan. If teleportation was a deal, I’d go there for the 11 a.m. kickoff, then still make the 2:30 p.m. start in Stillwater.