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On last night's weekly radio broadcast from LaVell Edwards Stadium's President's Loge, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced a suspension for one of his top receivers, revealed that QB Riley Nelson was playing with a broken finger before being knocked out for the season at Florida State, and said he was "completely responsible" for the two-QB decision that he claims has been "the biggest issue with our execution so far."
You can hear the entire broadcast by going to the audio archive on the show page, or by simply clicking the "Cougar Cuts" box below.
The special guests on the program last night were former BYU TE Chad Lewis and current BYU RB Bryan Kariya. While they are not part of the recap below, I encourage you to listen to their segments; both were tremendous guests, and my personal feeling is that visiting with a former and current player every week is a great way to get a feel for what BYU Football is all about.
This season, we have already had Tom Holmoe, Lee Johnson, Austin Collie and now Chad Lewis as ex-player guests. Next week we'll have "Freight Train" Rob Morris, with Max Hall expected in coming weeks, not to mention others in the works.
While seats for all remaining shows have been filled, you can request replacement/cancellation seats by filling out the form on this linked page.
Noting that his team is 1-2 for a fourth time in his six seasons, Mendenhall said "it is a familiar place, however this particular team and this place is different than any of the previous seasons. We still have a lot of work to do; I think we are making progress."
I asked him if this first month is proving to be about as tough a schedule as this team could handle, and the coach replied:
"This particular team against this part of the schedule is forcing us to really grow as fast as we can possibly handle--sometimes, faster than the players and sometimes faster than the coaches are capable of keeping up with. However, when it is all said and done, the program will grow from it and we will benefit from it, and the lessons learned from this stretch will ultimately help our program move forward in the long term."
"Most folks don't want to hear about long term, most folks don't want to hear about perspective, most folks don't want to hear about what direction we're going; it's more about tangible and immediate results. However, the groundwork that is being laid will be very beneficial. When it will pay off, I'm not certain."
At the end of the show's first segment, word came across of WR O'Neill Chambers' two-week suspension for "disciplinary reasons." The coach said "that will be a private matter between he and I, and something that I hope is a benefit to him not only personally in terms of his growth, but also our program. I'll always do what I think is not only best for the program but for each individual that I've recruited and I care for here, and it won't always be about winning football games."
Mendenhall said Chambers will attend class and work with the academic center, and will train with the strength coach "independently of the team." The coach said Chambers will be "completely isolated from the team" for two weeks, after which there will be a re-evaluation, and "we'll determine where we go from there."
Mendenhall, on QB Riley Nelson's season-ending shoulder injury:
"I'm not sure anyone was surprised his body was getting worn down. What a lot of people don't know is he played the Florida State game with a broken finger on on his throwing hand as well. He's just a fierce, fierce competitor, and had a lot of grit and determination as a playmaker. Our hope is... getting this year back and having him back for two more."
On handing the ball to Heaps for all of the significant practice reps: "It's a completely different model than what we've had this year, but it resembles exactly what has happened before. So, there should be an increase in chemistry over time and an increase in execution over time and an increased sense of confidence in having a single player to look to. It's just unfortunate it came about in this manner."
On this current team dealing with the pressure of expectations after a 1-2 start, Mendenhall said he asked the team in a Monday meeting, "what's your life like right now?" He said more than a dozen players talked about how "this is BYU, and at BYU, we don't lose; they're hearing that everywhere they go, and they understand the expectations very clearly; that's why they came here."
"Now, they're looking at their own performance and trying to measure up what it has to be, and make it happen as quickly as possible, and they want to. Right now, the time frame doesn't match the expectation, but the expectation doesn't go away, nor do they want it to."
"The focus is on the simple successes to get to the point where we meet the expectations of what BYU has. The only thing we can't control is the time frame. At some point, they'll play 'BYU Football,' and once that happens, we won't go back."
Talking about implementing a system involving quarterback runs in much of the 2010 offensive game plan, Mendenhall said the plan was added "going all the way back from the minute last season ended. We worked on it, researched it, and the plays we designed, we actually spent the the entire (off)season to add two or three plays, to not take away from what were we were doing, but to hopefully complement that without changing the complete identity."
Mendenhall said "the biggest issue with our execution so far, is the choice that I made, and I'm completely responsible for, of playing two quarterbacks, which cut the execution and practice repetitions in half, for each player."
If I wasn't so compelled by both and so convinced that either could be the quarterback, in hoping to separate it, I wouldn't have done that. That has really affected our execution more than anything."
Finally, the coach revealed his "Ken Garff Keys to the Game" to beating Nevada on Saturday:
1. "Limit (Nevada's) offensive possessions, because they are exceptional on offense."
2. "We have to do an exceptional job on third downs on both sides of the ball, but especially offensively."
3. "Play 'assignment football' consistently, defensively, to limit (UNR's) point potential."
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