Mississippi Yearning

Mississippi Yearning

By Greg Wrubell | Posted - Sep. 3, 2011 at 8:17 a.m.



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In a few hours, the BYU Cougars kick off their 2011 season-- the school's first-ever season to start without a conference to call home.

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The newly-independent Cougars debut in the Deep South: Oxford, Mississippi, where the rebuilding SEC's Rebels provide the opposition. Coming off a 4-8 campaign in 2010, Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt is out to prove that last season was a trip-up and not a trend.

For BYU, the season opener represents the first opportunity to prove worthy of the national spotlight that has settled on Bronco Mendenhall's football program.

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Mendenhall's Cougars have shown they know how to get out of the blocks. BYU has won its last four season openers, but it's the first time since 2006 that the Cougars have opened on an opponent's home field. In fact, in Mendenhall's previous six seasons, BYU opened on the road only once: in '06 at Arizona, resulting in a 16-13 heartbreaker.

The last time BYU opened away from home was two years ago, in 2009, when BYU beat Oklahoma at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.

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Excluding 2008's lid-lifter with Northern Iowa in Provo, BYU's offensive debuts have been relatively modest.

Points Scored in Season Openers (FBS only)

2005: 3

2006: 13

2007: 20

2009: 14

2010: 23

Noting that BYU's game-to-game offensive goal is to score at least 24 points, the Cougars are still seeking an optimal offensive performance to start the season.

How key is the 24-point plateau? BYU has won 15 straight games and is 50-6 in the Bronco era when scoring 24 or more.

Last year, Ole Miss allowed 35.2 points per game, and allowed 24 or more in nine of 12 games.

Defensively, BYU is 42-1 in its last 43 games allowing 24 points or fewer. The one loss: at Utah last season (L 17- 16).

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A few other gameday notes:

BYU has defeated a BCS auto-qualifier at least once in each of the last five seasons, and in 14 of the last 15 seasons overall. The one year in the last 15 without a win over BCS AQ team? 2005 (0-2 v. BCS; losses to Boston College and Cal)

BYU is returning 99.1% of rush yards from last season, 99.6% off total offense yards, and 100% of passing yards.

Justin Sorensen has the big leg, but with Riley Stephenson handling kickoffs last season, BYU was 4th nationally in kickoff touchbacks (33%). Special teams and field position are receiving a renewed emphasis with BYU this season. In Bronco's 56 wins, BYU is +5.3 yards in average starting field position; -4.3 yards ASFP in Bronco's 21 losses. The 2011 Cougars have specific numerical goals related to kickoff cover, kickoff returns, punt cover and punt returns.

Ole Miss has won 10 of its last 11 non-conference home games. Five of the 11 games were against FCS teams, and in fact the one loss was to an FCS squad (Jacksonville State, L 49-48 in last year's season opener, at Oxford).

This is Ole Miss' first-ever game against a team from Utah.

Ole Miss returns five offensive line starters, who have accounted for 72 career OL starts. BYU counters with 106 career OL starts.

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Pregame coverage gets underway at 12:30pm on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM, ksl.com, BYU Radio (SiriusXM 143) and byuradio.org. You can also hear the game on our seven network affiliates:

Blackfoot/Idaho Falls/Pocatello, ID KTHK-FM 105.5

Boise,ID KIDO-AM 580

Manti, UT KMGR-FM 95.9

St.George, UT KDXU-AM 890

Cedar City, UT KSUB-AM 590

Las Vegas, NV KSHP-AM 1400

Grand Junction, CO KNZZ-AM 1100

Don't forget about to download the new "KSL GameCenter" app; it includes streaming KSL Radio audio.

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Greg Wrubell

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