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PROVO -- Saying "I still haven't gotten used to the idea of playing Utah in week number three," BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall looked ahead to the annual rivalry game during his Monday morning on-campus press conference.
You can hear Mendenhall's press conference in its entirety, and post-presser interviews with Jameson Frazier, Travis Uale and Bryan Kariya, in "Cougar Cuts," to the left.
With his team's offense ranked 107th in scoring and 108th in yardage through two weeks, Mendenhall said "I'm still seeing signs of progress" on that side of the ball.
"I think we have good players with good ability," said Mendenhall. "Eventually that's going to lead to the production that we're all hopeful for...level of concern or anxiety--I haven't reached that point yet."
BYU's run game is averaging a paltry 67 yards per game, ranked 113th nationally, and Mendenhall said "the biggest issue right now is we have to find a way to run the ball more effectively."
"I'm fairly happy with our play action and I'm fairly happy with our intermediate throws. Running the football is actually the largest of concerns if there are any."
Mendenhall asked if he was "on board with what's happening right now (on offense), or does it need to change?" The coach's response:
"I'm on board...the biggest issue is we have to find a way to run the football more effectively."
Mendenhall addressed whether expectations for his offense "were a little too high," with a new offensive coordinator in Brandon Doman. The coach said "I like the high expectations..we have a good program with good personnel, and an exciting and challenging schedule, so I think all those things were well-founded...and one play away from being 2-0, or one point away, with two hard games on the road."
"Part of it is who we've played, and where we've played them to begin the season."
The coach was asked about "dinking and dunking" on offense and whether he wants to see the ball go downfield more frequently, Mendenhall said "I do, and ideally we'll get to the point that as our targets emerge...we've got to get more consistently open downfield for those shots to be taken and eventually, maybe 25% of the throws will be downfield."
"In the Texas game, the variety of pressures they were coming after the quarterback with, and the variety of looks made us a little more protection-conscious than downfield-conscious."
Mendenhall says the Longhorns "had us on our heels...they were attack-oriented...it was difficult to move the football. They had a really good plan."
Mendenhall says quarterback Jake Heaps "is about right on" where the coach thought he would be in terms of development. "The biggest thing that would be helpful to Jake and our offense is more balance; being able to run the football more effectively would have his development take off."
"He's having to carry a little bit too much of the load right now."
Bronco was asked how Doman "is holding up" in his new role. Mendenhall surmised that "he's sleeping about like I am, probably. As you become a first-time head coach or first-time coordinator, there's a different amount of responsibility, and I think he' handling it well. But it's difficult."
On a perceived lack of offensive aggression in weeks one and two, Mendenhall said "I think a lot of it has to do--how much I'm not sure yet--with the defenses that we've played against; they're both good and I think we'll see another good one this week."
"The key is handling solid defenses while maintaining an aggressive nature and balance and we're still looking for that exact right mix."
On the coming matchup with Utah, Mendenhall said two players who missed the Texas game "will play" v. the Utes. Brandon Ogletree (concussion) and Mike Hague (ribs) will suit up, while Jordan Pendleton (ankle) may may be held out of practice until Thursday, but is expected to play after his injury was ruled "not significant."
About Juice Quezada, who has been limited to nine carries over two games, Mendenhall said the sophomore running back "missed most of fall camp with an ankle injury, and I'm as anxious as anyone to have him back in the production role that I think we'd all like to see."
"It has just taken a little bit longer than any of us thought (for Quezada) to get back to where we believe he can be. More of just timing and consistency...I think the ankle is strong enough, now it's just a matter of getting his running form back, I would say."
Mendenhall was asked a number of questions about the nature of the BYU-Utah rivalry, the timing of this year's encounter, and the game itself. A sampling of his responses:
"I'm having a hard time getting my own mind around it, that we're playing the University of Utah this week...it is so early."
"I would just like it to be a first-class rivalry; the games certainly indicate that, that they're going to be down to the last play, and again it's going to be very competitive."
"Both defenses are playing fairly solid and both offenses are still working their ways into their identities...with not having an analyzed them enough yet, it appears that there could be some similarities (between the two teams), at least early on."
"I like the competitive nature of the game, and I like games that are going to be fiercely-contested...that part of it is really exciting. As for the rest of it, in terms of how my neighbors and anyone else react to it, I could do without."
"Possibly the release or the mechanics look a little bit different from what I remember" as he watches Utah QB Jordan Wynn, post-shoulder surgery. "The strength is there... the delivery and the mechanics seem a little bit altered from where the were before."
"The rivalry isn't so much noticeable to me when you play the game, it's all the things in the community leading up to it. I haven't been out enough in the community this week to grasp it yet."
Mendenhall characterized his relationship with Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham as "professional...it really doesn't go beyond that."
"I think we both tried early on, but we both realized that I wasn't LaVell (Edwards), and he wasn't Ron McBride. That was such a unique relationship between those two, in such a hostile game or circumstance. If you were to say what would be the ideal for any program or rivalry, I really respected how they handled it, and Kyle and I are different."
"You'd have to ask them, but...from our perspective, it's the same." (asked if the rivalry means more to BYU than Utah now that the Cougars are independent and the Utes are in the Pac-12)
Asked about the "most memorable play" and "most haunting play" from his BYU/Utah games, Mendenhall picked Beck-to-Harline in the former category and last year's blocked field goal at Utah in the latter.
BYU placekicker Justin Sorensen was today named FBS Independent Special Teams Player of the Week. It is the second straight week a Cougar has been honored, after linebacker Kyle Van Noy captured defensive honors last week.