For the eighth time, and a sixth time in South Bend, BYU and Notre Dame are set to meet on the gridiron Saturday--the second game of a contracted six-game series between the two schools.
When the deal was originally done, the Cougars and Fighting Irish were committed to play six times between 2012 and 2020. Notre Dame's recent scheduling alliance with the ACC has led to some schedule shuffling in South Bend, but not involving games with BYU.
Asked if there was any fear that the six-game series might be modified moving forward, Cougar head coach Bronco Mendenhall on Monday said "not on our part, and I trust them to keep their agreement."
PROVO — Coming off a tough 27-17 loss at Wisconsin last week, Bronco Mendenhall joined Greg Wrubell and Marc Lyons for his weekly show in front of a packed house at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Coach Mendenhall opened by sharing his feelings about the Wisconsin game by saying, "I've run the full gamut (of emotions) from being absolutely, fiercely angry, to disappointed, to heartbroken, to angry again, to a little depressed, to angry again, and now it's partly cloudy because I really believed and predicted to my staff and my team that we would go and be capable of winning the game."
He was especially disappointed "that an opportunity was missed and (that) we get 12 of these per year before the bowl game. There are some that are right there to take and the preparation and things set up exactly the way you would like it to. The fact that we didn't come away with one or two more drives. or stop one or two more drives with as small a margin of victory, it was beyond frustration."
PROVO — BYU's football team prepares for the annual Senior Day gala this week. And while certain members of the 2013 senior class will stand out at different times, it is the group as a whole that players will think of when they contemplate their time playing at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"I'm grateful to play with the players on our team," said linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who will end a storied home career Saturday against Idaho State. "Last year, we had a great group of seniors; I felt like I've played for them forever. This year is the same thing. I'm glad I could go out with these ones."
Some Cougar seniors have spent more time in the program than others. While Van Noy played four straight years of football since arriving in 2010, defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna was a freshman on the 2007 squad and defensive back Mike Hague began his career as a fullback in 2006.
PROVO — As practice concluded on Tuesday night in Provo, injuries quickly became the hot topic of discussion. BYU announced on Monday that linebacker Spencer Hadley suffered an MCL injury and will be week-to-week, and wide reviver Mitch Mathews is done for the year after suffering a shoulder injury that will require surgery.
BYU wide receivers coach Guy Holliday has dealt with several players at the receiver position missing time this season.
Cody Hoffman missed time with injury and a suspension this year, while JD Falslev fractured his hand prior to the Wisconsin game. With the additional loss of Mathews, BYU plans on continue to move guys around and see who can fill the void.
PROVO — BYU was 6-2, fresh off a Fight Hunger Bowl invite, and on a five-game winning streak, but the Wisconsin Badgers didn't care.
The Cougars couldn't stop the Badger run game and struggled to score points of their own, leaving Camp Randall with a 17-27 defeat last Saturday, and halting their mid-season momentum.
"Disappointed with our loss; huge opportunity missed," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall after Monday night's practice. "Hard one to shake off not only for myself but for our team. The opponent had more drive on offense, and we gave up one too many on defense."
It was almost 40 years ago that Weber State visited the Marriott Center for the first time. On Nov. 30, 1973, with the building barely two years old, BYU defeated the visiting Wildcats 77-76.
Weber State has faced BYU in Provo 18 times since, and have never come closer to beating the Cougars than that one-point loss. BYU is 19-0 all-time against the Wildcats on the Marriott Center hardwoods--a streak the Cougars seek to extend to 20 games in the regular season-opener for both teams Friday night.
"Any team that comes in here," said BYU guard Tyler Haws on Thursday, "we expect to get a win. I feel like we have great fans and it's a great atmosphere, and we love the home court advantage."
In eight years as a head coach, Bronco Mendenhall and the BYU football team have played in a lot of different venues — ranging from small, comfortable confines to enormous NFL palaces.
But the long-time defensive coach knows Saturday's game at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisc., will prove to be an extra challenge. And he's looking forward to it.
"That's one of the great things about traveling to the stadiums we play in: to play teams that leave a significant impact, then come back and examine your own culture and fan base," Mendenhall said at Wednesday's weekly coach's show at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Coming off a second and final bye week of the season, BYU is ready for a high-profile Saturday showdown with the No. 24 (BCS) Wisconsin Badgers.
"It's going to be a big challenge, big stage, probably one of the biggest games we're going to face and play this season" said senior defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna after the Cougars' Thursday practice at the team's indoor practice facility.
"It's a big challenge, but we're up for it."
The Cougars have been on a roll of late -- on several rolls, actually.
After a slow start to the season, BYU quarterback Taysom Hill found his arm and transformed into a true dual-threat quarterback, ranking No. 6 in the country with an average of 357.5 yards per game of total offense.
Receiver Cody Hoffman is rewriting the BYU record books on a weekly basis. The senior sensation already set new marks for touchdown grabs and total receptions in a career and stands a mere 14 yards away from capturing the title of most receiving yards in a career, too.
Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen was in the mid-90s a high school coach in Park City, out of the college game--until he got a phone call from Bronco Mendenhall, then the co-defensive coordinator at Northern Arizona.
Mendenhall needed a defensive line coach, and he called Andersen, who accepted the post and later became an assistant head coach with the Lumberjacks, before moving on to the University of Utah as an assistant. A long stint with the Utes (as defensive line coach and DC), and a pit-stop at Southern Utah (as head coach) led eventually to the head post at Utah State, where he served for four seasons before taking the Wisconsin job last December.
On Monday in Madison, Andersen said that at the time Mendenhall reached out, "I had really nowhere to go. I didn't have an ‘in' in college football at that point. I was hoping I could get back in at some point."
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