At his team's annual Media Day on Wednesday, BYU head basketball coach Dave Rose acknowledged that Gonzaga would be the team that "you'd probably have to go with" when looking for a favorite to win the West Coast Conference basketball title in 2011-12, adding that "we'll just try to see if we can compete with those guys."
Then, when asked about his own expectations, those who gave been around Rose long enough knew very well what the answer would be. "What are our expectations?" asked Rose, repeating the question. "We expect to win the league."
"That's why we practice, that's why we recruit, that's why we do what we do; to try and win league championships, get our team in the NCAA Tournament and advance as far as we can."
During Tuesday afternoon's post-practice interview session at BYU's indoor facility, head coach Bronco Mendenhall covered many subjects ranging from the quarterback situation to his thoughts on upcoming opponent Oregon State, but the hot topic was conference realignment.
You can hear Mendenhall's remarks and post-practice interviews with players Riley Nelson, Cody Hoffman and Michael Alisa in "Cougar Cuts" to the left.
During his weekly press conference, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall all but plainly stated Riley Nelson will continue as his starting quarterback this Saturday at Oregon State.
Saying he "really thought Riley had a strong game in his first start" of the season against San Jose State, Mendenhall said Nelson's insertion into the offense "made us much more difficult to defend," and "provided a spark and an inspiration to our team, and gave us some momentum going into a road game."
They didn't get there in a way anyone would have predicted, but the BYU Cougars have hit the half-way point of their season with a 4-2 record--discovering a new starting quarterback and (for the time being) a new number one running back, just as they reach the campaign's midpoint.
Saturday night's 29-16 home win over San Jose State featured a BYU team that while still mistake-prone, has taken on an almost completely new identity than the one with which it began the season.
After keeping a public lid on the news all week, BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to let the quarterback cat out of the bag early Friday evening, announcing that junior Riley Nelson will take the starting reins from sophomore signal-caller Jake Heaps against San Jose State on Saturday night.
Mendenhall revealed the news in a school-issued press release, in which the coach was quoted:
During his weekly KSL Radio broadcast from LaVell Edwards Stadium on Wednesday night, BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall praised his team's "diligence and resiliency" in last Friday's comeback win over Utah State.
"I feel great about the win," Mendenhall said. "We had a lot of fun. It was a hard-fought game and a fantastic way for us to win. And to have a 98-yard drive to cap a comeback, you can't do much more than that in terms of adding excitement to a game."
BYU's quarterback situation was the topic of the day after the team's Tuesday afternoon practice, with media swarming the Indoor Practice Facility in attempt to glean information on the subject as it relates to this Saturday's game against the San Jose State Spartans.
The current situation was sparked last Friday with 5:06 remaining in the third quarter of BYU's home game against Utah State, when backup quarterback Riley Nelson took the helm from starter Jake Heaps and led the Cougars to a 27-24 comeback win over the Aggies. Nelson passed for two touchdowns, the last coming off a 96-yard drive that was capped with only 11 seconds left on the game clock.
BYU goes for a third straight win Saturday night when San Jose State visits Provo, but with no disrespect for the Spartans, the game is third on the list of current concerns for Cougars fans.
BYU's quarterback quandary and the Big 12's plans as they relate to BYU are 1-2 on the "hot list," in either order, and hardly an hour goes by that I am not asked my opinion on one matter or the other.
BYU's quarterback situation took center stage at head football coach Bronco Mendenhall's weekly press conference Monday morning, with Mendenhall saying he is "not ready to name a starter yet; most likely won't do so until the end of the week."
Junior backup Riley Nelson took over for sophomore starter Jake Heaps with 5:06 remaining in the third quarter of BYU's home game with Utah State, and was the catalyst in the Cougars' 27-24 comeback win--a win that was secured when Nelson capped a 96-yard drive on a touchdown pass with only 11 seconds remaining in the game.
Saying Utah State is "on the verge of breaking through as a program and as a team," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall previewed this week's meeting with the Aggies during his weekly show on KSL Radio Wednesday night.
"They're a team that's scoring 41 points a game and rushing for over 300 yards a game," said Mendenhall. "It's already showing."
"Cougar Tracks" caught up with a pair of BYU linebackers after Tuesday afternoon's practice in Provo, the last media session prior to the Cougars' Friday night home game with Utah State.
The game with the Aggies comes 52 weeks to the day USU handed BYU a 31-16 shellacking--a setback that prompted the firing of then-defensive coordinator Jaime Hill, who was replaced as play-caller by head coach Bronco Mendenhall.
BYU is off to a sluggish start on offense (109th in scoring, 111th in yardage); Utah State is one of the most potent offenses in the country (14th in scoring, 16th in yardage). But one of those two teams is under .500, and it isn't BYU.
While some in Cougar Nation are dwelling on the Cougars' current struggles to score, there are enough other things going right and/or improving within the 2011 team to inspire confidence this Friday night versus the Aggies, and moving forward.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall met the media Monday morning in his weekly press conference, pronouncing himself "encouraged and pleased with the some of the improvement I saw in our team...against Central Florida (a 24-17 BYU win)."
"Special teams was the critical improved area in the game...I thought the defense was solid again with the offense making some improvement."
In Jimmer Fredette's final scheduled appearance for a competitive basketball game at the Marriott Center, more than 11-thousand fans showed up to welcome "Jimmer's All-Stars" to Provo, and they were not disappointed.
Fredette was the most popular player in Thursday night's exhibition game featuring eight first-round and four second-round picks in the 2011 NBA Draft, but he was not the only crowd-pleaser in a contest that ended with the Kawhi Leonard-captained team beating "Team Fredette," 140-128.
Calling his team's 54-10 loss to Utah "as heavy as it could have been," Bronco Mendenhall discussed the need to look back and learn from mistakes during his weekly radio show from LaVell Edwards Stadium.
"I was very disappointed," Mendenhall said. "I expected to go through four quarters of another classic BYU-Utah rivalry. I did not coach the team in a manner to have them play that way. And I'm responsible for that. If you want to be a national-caliber team week in and week out, how many games will you win if you turn it over seven times? There are way too many things to correct and to fix (for a coach) to say that you're not looking back."
"Jimmermania" returns to BYU's Marriott Center one more time Thursday night, but Jimmer Fredette won't be a solo act. The "Jimmer's All-Stars Presented by Zions Bank" exhibition basketball game will feature several 1st and 2nd round picks from the 2011 NBA Draft.
At a Wednesday evening press conference in Provo, Fredette said "we're really looking forward to being able to go out and play against great competition, in kind of game setting where there's gonna be people in the stands, people cheering--something that probably a lot of us haven't done for a while."
The dormant BYU run game was a main talking point after Tuesday afternoon's practice, with the post-workout media session the last such availability before the Cougars welcome Central Florida to LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday night.
Running back J.J. DiLuigi speculated on the reason the rush attack (118th nationally) has failed to live up to its potential in the first three games of the 2011 season:
With nine players returning on the offensive side of the ball, including 2010's top three ground gainers, three national award candidates on the line and a sophomore QB whose late 2010 performances hinted at a prolific future, BYU appeared poised to start the 2011 season where it left off in 2010.
Instead, the Cougar offense languishes as one of the nation's weakest, with 1-2 BYU now welcoming a 2-1 Central Florida squad that despite its soft schedule, is one of the country's top statistical teams on defense.
So, what happened, and what is likely to happen next?
Coming off a 54-10 Saturday setback to Utah, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall used his weekly press conference to assess the aftermath of the worst loss in his head coaching tenure.
"The more wins we can get the better, in year one of independence," said Mendenhall, "but as we already can see, it's not going to be easy."
Addressing the timing of this week's matchup against the University of Utah, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said "I'm not sure I like it. I'm not sure I'll get used to it. But we're very anxious to play in front of our home crowd, and I am looking forward to the game."
Mendenhall made his comments during his weekly LaVell Edwards Stadium broadcast on KSL Radio, during which we were also joined by former BYU TE Chad Lewis and current BYU nose tackle Romney Fuga.
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