PROVO -- When a friend at work asked me last Friday what my projections were for the BYU-Utah State game, it wasn't a hard question for me to answer. A week full of press conferences and convincing interviews from the BYU coaching staff and players had made me optimistic. I had confidence in the Cougars, and felt that the week of practice would be enough to turn out a win against a formidable Utah State team.
Friday came and passed, and like many BYU fans I was left feeling unsatisfied, disheartened and a bit disgusted after another loss. It was almost as if I had gone to a restaurant promising a great meal, and then had gone to eat only to be disappointed. Then on top of it all forced to do the dishes and mop the floor after the meal. Unpleasant to say the least.
This week BYU faces San Diego State at home. The Aztecs are currently 3-1 and are very comparable to Utah State. They have begun this season with the best start in 29 seasons with a 3-1 record and are coming off a strong 41-7 win against Utah State from two weeks ago. San Diego State is well-coached and looking to continue carrying their momentum. This weekend will be another test for the young Cougar team.
Again like last week, I can't help but to fall for Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall's charm. He exudes confidence, and although his team is sitting at a 1-4 season, his words bring trust.
"We're anxious and hopefully well-rested to take on our second conference opponent," Mendenhall stated. "It's a great opportunity for our team to regroup, to redefine ourselves, to learn from our mistakes and some of the successes we've had through the first five weeks, and to improve our football team."
There is no doubt that Mendenhall is an optimist when it comes to BYU's football program, but even the most hopeful have to face the facts. BYU is going through a hard time, and although it has been dubbed as a "redefining period," the fact is that the BYU identity is slowing fading. They are no longer the power house team to beat in the Mountain West Conference.
With Mendenhall deciding to take control of the Cougar defense, it will be interesting to see how much of an influence his direct input will have on the team after letting go of defensive coordinator Jamie Hill. Mendenhall is a defensive specialist and will be sure to look to revitalize the defensive side of the team. He is in familiar territory, being the defensive coordinator for Snow College, Northern Arizona University, Oregon State, and University of New Mexico. He also was the defensive coordinator at BYU under then Head Coach Gary Crowton before assuming the responsibility of head coach himself.
And Saturday he faces his old mentor, Rocky Long, who is now the defensive coordinator at San Diego State.
"Right now is a pivotal time for our program," Mendenhall said. "Quite frankly at my seat as being the head coach, I was not having enough influence. I consider my influence on the defense my strength and where I can have the most leverage and it's where I think I can influence our program the most for the rest of the season."
It's a difference in culture," said junior offensive lineman Matt Reynolds. "Mendenhall tried to make the best decision for the program."
I am a bit more conscience this week when it comes to projecting who I think will win this weekend; however I do trust that we will see some major improvements on defense, which will hopefully mean victory on Saturday.