BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall called his team's 49-10 win at Colorado State "another step forward for our program" in his weekly press conference.
You can hear the entire podium session as well as group interviews with Cody Hoffman, Brian Logan, Corby Eason and David Foote by clicking on their audio links in the "Cougar Cuts" box below.
Mendenhall said his team is "anxious to continue to push the tempo and improve our football team with two weeks remaining." New Mexico visits Provo on Saturday afternoon, with the season-ender at Utah set for the following weekend.
Early in the press conference, Mendenhall confirmed that starting nose tackle Jordan Richardson suffered a torn ACL in the win at CSU. Richardson's season-ending injury came on a play in which was not supposed to participate. The coach says a backup was confused and had come off the field, so Richardson ran to "fill the spot."
Mendenhall says Richardson's injury was not a result of contact; he says Richardson's foot got stuck in the turf.
Richardson is the second starting nose tackle to go down with a season-ending knee injury; Romney Fuga was lost for the year in the Nevada game. DE/NT Eathyn Manumaleuna (who started 13 games at NT as a true freshman) will replace Richardson, with walk-on Simote Vea and DE Graham Rowley (who will cross-train) slated to spell Manumaleuna.
Mendenhall says "Eathyn is experienced and will be effective at (nose tackle)...we'll just be thinner than what we've been." The coach adds that multiple defensive linemen will likely end up cross-training and playing multiple positions, "to give us the best two-deep possible."
Mendenhall said BYU's change in momentum began with what he called a "significant event": his decision to shake up his coaching staff and take over as defensive coordinator. Saying "I don't want to take credit," the coach said it was "rolling up my sleeves and trying to do something to help our team, other than just be the head coach."
"I think that signified that there would be change. Trying to make it as visible as possible in practice is where it started. The game is just a by-product of practice."
Asked about the possibility of finishing as high as second place in the MWC standings, Mendenhall said "I haven't looked at the conference standings this whole season. It would be nice if we earned it, but I would really like to see us reach our potential more than anything else."
Bronco was asked by a reporter "How nice is it to have people believing in this program again?" Bronco could have taken issue with the speculative premise of the question; how does the reporter know many "people" stopped believing in the first place, and how does he know they are now believers again?
One could argue that the fact BYU continued to draw crowds of 60,000-plus throughout a difficult stretch is evidence enough that belief is more prevalent than others might assume.
My personal opinion is that BYU is not a "bandwagon belief" program; deeply-held belief does not vary wildly based on weekly results. Game-to-game struggles may clearly affect confidence and optimism amongst the fan base, but in terms of BYU supporters "believing in this program again," I think that the Bronco Mendenhall era has brought belief to a new high-water mark.
That said, the coach that supporters "should believe in it, and any that didn't...that's maybe an oversight on their part--not only not acknowledging past recent history, but also acknowledging what we're capable of this year."
"Anyone that maybe chose not to believe in that--which I understand, as games seem to weigh so heavily one week at a time--I think it would have been a poor choice. My hope now is that maybe they would like to support us if they haven't and see enough on the field to give us their support."
More from Mendenhall--
On the early season adversity leading to late-season success: "I'm not sure (success) would have been possible without the early-season struggles, and I'm sure that it wouldn't have mattered as much."
"If leadership is sound and doing a good job, any struggles you have should propel the program past where it could have been without them. My hope is they were an essential part--not enjoyable, but an essential part--of where we are now, and hopefully where we end up being, not only this year but going forward to next season."
On making a decision "about five weeks ago" to have the #1 offense work on the passing game versus the #1 defense "every single day" in practice: "Unlike past years, with a more experienced quarterback, where we've moved away from (ones v. ones), we added back in most of the competitive elements of throwing and catching the football against our own defense."
"That, in a very short amount of time has led to better decisions, more accuracy and more success on the practice field. That success on the practice field has now generated some confidence at an increased level going into the game."
"We sacrifice preparation for the opponent in terms of scheme to gain the competitive element."
On the push for a bowl bid, which BYU can earn with a win on Saturday: "It's one of the things that is expected at BYU. I'd love to continue to play football as long as I can this year with this team and help them reach their goals. (A bowl) would certainly be one of the things I'd like to see happen."
All three players BYU nominated for MWC Player of the Week honors were tabbed by the conference today. WR Luke Ashworth (offense), S Andrew Rich (defense) and PK Mitch Payne (special teams) all took home weekly citations; BYU only nominates one player per unit, so QB Jake Heaps was not up for the offensive award.
The BYU Basketball team is 23rd (AP) and 27th (Coaches) in the first regular season Top 25 polls of the season. BYU is 17th in Sports Illustrated's College Basketball Preview, out this week. In that issue, Jimmer Fredette is named to the "best starting five."