As the calendar turns, it's time to reflect on what we have seen in 2011 and expect to see in 2012, from BYU Football and Basketball--and what we have seen, and should keep seeing, is a whole lot of winning.
The football team just concluded its fifth double-digit win season in the last six years; the only other times BYU had five or more 10+ win seasons in a six-season stretch: 1979 through 1984 and 1980 through 1985.
On the day before the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, head coaches for the BYU and Tulsa football teams held a Thursday morning press conference in Fort Worth--the last day of activities in that city before the scene shifts to Dallas for Friday's game.
You can hear the entire press conference and individual interviews with Tulsa players GJ Kinne and Curnelius Arnick, and BYU's Jameson Frazier, in "Cougar Cuts," to the left.
The BYU and Tulsa football teams touch down in Texas today, four days ahead of their Dallas meeting in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl. Past performances and present productivity point to high-scoring affair at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium on Friday.
The two programs first met in 1971, but the 25-7 scoreline in BYU's favor was little indication of the kinds of games that would follow in later years. Between 1984 and 2007, BYU and TU played six more times, with the winner scoring at least 38 points on all six occasions, and the loser scoring 30 or more four times.
The BYU Football team on Friday held its fifth and final Provo practice in preparation for the Dec. 30 Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, with QB Riley Nelson pronouncing his teammates "zoned in" a week ahead of the game against Tulsa's Golden Hurricane.
The practice week having concluded, BYU players and coaches were released for the Christmas break, with the team scheduled to re-convene on Monday in Fort Worth, Texas. The team will practice Monday through Wednesday at a high school in Burleson (south of Fort Worth), with a game venue walk-though set for Thursday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.
One play. That's all it takes for a backup quarterback to be thrust into the spotlight. With Jake Heaps' departure from the BYU Football program, the Cougars' new #2 is junior James Lark.
"He's one play away from being our starting quarterback," Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said after Wednesday's practice at the team's indoor practice facility.
"I was in the same situation last year when (starter) Riley (Nelson) was hurt for the whole season," said Lark Wednesday. "I'm ready. I feel like I've been here forever, but I've been here a long time. It's nothing new, I'm ready to go."
The upcoming Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas means a return home for three of BYU's front-line Texans. But unlike LB Brandon Ogletree and WR Ross Apo, wideout McKay Jacobson enters the game knowing it will be the final contest of his Cougar career.
Of the impending end of his collegiate playing days, Jacobson said it hasn't sunk in yet. "I haven't thought too much about it. I'm just focused on this next game."
Coming off a weekend home loss to #6/#7 Baylor, BYU head coach Dave Rose applauded his squad's effort in the Saturday setback, and said with the same level of effort moving forward, "I think that this team could be really good."
Rose addressed the media after a Monday afternoon practice that saw another key player limp off the court with an injury. Freshman wing Damarcus Harrison sprained his ankle late in practice, and Rose called his participation in Tuesday night's home game versus Buffalo "a possibility...depending on how it swells tonight."
Saturday's massive Marriott Center meeting between BYU and the 6th/7th-ranked Baylor Bears has been made more difficult for the Cougars with the news that forward Stephen Rogers is out two to four weeks after Thursday night surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
BYU head coach Dave Rose said Rogers had been dealing with a knee problem for the last couple of weeks. The junior from Mesa, Ariz. was forced to leave Thursday's practice early with knee pain; he headed to the hospital for an MRI and was undergoing surgery soon thereafter.
Two days before welcoming #6/#7 Baylor into the Marriott Center, BYU Basketball head coach Dave Rose ran his team through a Thursday afternoon practice session at the Marriott Center--a practice that forward Stephen Rogers left early with a knee injury Rose said "seemed pretty serious."
Rose said Rogers "has had a problem with (the knee) for about two weeks; he had to come out of the Utah game because he bumped knees, but today it seemed pretty serious, he was in a lot of pain.
It's a relatively quiet week on the BYU Football and Basketball front, with players from both team teams taking final exams to conclude the Fall semester. The Armed Forces Bowl-bound Cougars are lifting and conditioning but not practicing, while for their coaches it's a week of recruiting. The BYU hoopsters were back at practice today after days off on Monday and Tuesday; their week-long game break ends Saturday at home to #6/#7 Baylor.
The down time lets us take a breather and recap some of the accomplishments of both teams, and let's start with the 9-3 football squad:
The day before his team's now once-annual meeting with the slumping Utah Runnin' Utes, BYU head coach Dave Rose closed practice, meeting with the media before Friday afternoon's Marriott Center session, and saying he wants his players to "leave it all up there" at the Huntsman Center on Saturday.
At 1-7 on the season, Utah is one of the worst statistical performers in the country, and is coming off its worst- ever Huntsman Center setback--an 81-50 loss to Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday night. Rose says the Utes are not without their strengths.
Rifling through my cranium for items from the mental clearinghouse...and here we go:
We start with the first PAP numbers of the season for the BYU Basketball team, which is off to a 7-2 start and looking better game by game.
For the uninitiated, PAP stands for Points Available Percentage, which is my pet stat measuring a player's scoring efficiency, expressed as a percentage of points scored compared the number of points available to that player.
Saying that "it's good to be back" in the Marriott Center, BYU head coach Dave Rose had some not-so-good news regarding one of his veteran players after practice Monday--two days before his team's home-court meeting with Weber State.
Back on BYU's home floor for the first time since before Thanksgiving, Rose was once again without forward Chris Collinsworth, who has suffered a setback in his recovery from microfracture knee surgery last winter.
Monday's news that BYU quarterback Jake Heaps will transfer brings to an end the brief Cougar career of a player Bronco Mendenhall just last fall called "the future of the program."
It was in late November of 2010 that Mendenhall and Heaps were together on the coach's weekly KSL Radio show, and by that time, Heaps already had a handful of starts and wins under his belt, as a true freshman--only the second true freshman, non-redshirt, non-returned missionary ever to get a start as a BYU QB (Drew Miller was the first, in 1997).
Having missed one game and most of another with an injury to his ribs and lung, BYU quarterback Riley Nelson is on pace to make his return this Saturday at Hawaii.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said after Tuesday's practice that "we are practicing Riley like he is the starter," although he has not yet been officially cleared to play.
"If he feels like he's ready," said Mendenhall, "then I'll support that."
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe on Monday night spoke publicly about realignment negotiations with the Big East Conference--discussions he said had reached "kind of an impasse"--and cited as misinformation any belief that "BYU kind of blew up the talks" over an insistence upon retaining home TV rights.
"We had very good discussions with the Big East; they were very respectful," Holmoe said, during a guest appearance on KSL Radio's broadcast of "BYU Football with Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall." "We were able to go through a number of issues very, very quickly. There were some uncertainties when it got to the end about some TV issues, and some other issues."
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall says he is "looking forward to renewing this rivalry with Hawaii," but doesn't know who will start at quarterback for the Cougars Saturday in Honolulu.
At his weekly press conference, Mendenhall said QB Riley Nelson (injured rib cartilage/partially collapsed lung) has been cleared to travel to the islands, but has not yet been cleared to play. The coach said Nelson has another check-up scheduled for this week.
"I think the CT scan is today...if Riley were cleared to play, I would start Riley."
Reporting from suburban Chicago, where the BYU Basketball team preps for the final weekend of play in the Chicago Invitational Challenge...
It has been interesting to look back over the last number of months and see just how many people—beat writers, columnists, anyone with a Twitter feed—were confident they had the inside scoop on BYU's football future relative to conference realignment. We became accustomed to the phrases "sources say," "reports are," "people with knowledge of," "within a day or two," etc., etc., while fans waited and hoped for BYU to confirm any of these things with an announcement that would actually justify all of the breathless reporting and speculation. The confirmation never came, except to acknowledge that the school was indeed having conversations with the Big 12, and later, the Big East.
On the day reports surfaced that BYU and the Big East had broken off negotiations, head coach Bronco Mendenhall met with reporters, telling them that he still feels good about football independence.
"I do," Mendenhall told the media after his team's Tuesday afternoon practice. "The 'might have been,' I'm not sure who in college football right now knows what's going to happen in terms of the BCS, but I love the schedules we are putting together for the future and I love the chance to partner and be on TV as much as we are."
"I think it's helping us," said Mendenhall of independence. "I am very comfortable."
The BYU Basketball team began preparation for a three- games- in-five days stretch Monday afternoon at the Marriott Center, following a weekend off with a 90-minute practice ahead of Tuesday night's homecourt meeting with Prairie View A&M--the last contest before the Cougars leave town for the final two games of the Chicago Invitational Challenge.
You can hear post-practice interviews with head coach Dave Rose and forward Charles Abouo in "Cougar Cuts" to the left.
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