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On the day reports surfaced that BYU and the Big East had broken off negotiations, head coach Bronco Mendenhall met with reporters, telling them that he still feels good about football independence.
"I do," Mendenhall told the media after his team's Tuesday afternoon practice. "The 'might have been,' I'm not sure who in college football right now knows what's going to happen in terms of the BCS, but I love the schedules we are putting together for the future and I love the chance to partner and be on TV as much as we are."
"I think it's helping us," said Mendenhall of independence. "I am very comfortable."
You can hear the post-practice interviews with Mendenhall, quarterback Riley Nelson and running back Bryan Kariya in "Cougar Cuts," left.
Mendenhall also said that quarterback Riley Nelson, who suffered torn rib cartilage and a partially collapsed lung in BYU's Nov. 12 win over Idaho, has been cleared to fly to Hawaii for the Cougars' next game on Dec. 3. Whether Nelson will be cleared to play has not been determined.
"Best I can tell you is he'll go (to Hawaii)," said Mendenhall. "We'll prepare him like he'll play and then we will make a decision at the very end."
Nelson says he has made significant progress since the injury and looks forward to the trip, adding that "we're excited, I think we're pretty focused."
Nelson said finishing with a 10-win season is motivating the 8-3 Cougars heading into their final two games of the season.
"We are really anxious to win our last two games," said Nelson. "Despite what's happened in the season, at the end when we look back on it; if we can win these next two games we'll have a 10-3 season, and that's good by anyone's standards."
With BYU on its second bye week of November, Mendenhall said the current week off won't be very similar to the first one, which preceded the Idaho game.
"It's completely different because of Thanksgiving," Mendenhall said of a schedule that will have the Cougars practicing Wednesday before breaking for the holiday weekend.
"The practice week and the extra days are broken up but I think players need to have balance, and this holiday is important."
The Cougars have already begun preparation for their showdown with Hawaii, and will leave for the islands early next week. BYU lost on its last visit in 2001 when the Warriors ran past the Cougars by a score of 72-45.
"I go over there most of the time to not think about football," said Head Coach Mendenhall. "Now you're going with that being the primary thought. I'm not sure it's going to seem like Hawaii."
Nelson insists the Cougars will remain focused on the game and not the scenery.
"We'll have to see once we get out there because leaving the November Rocky Mountain weather for sunshine and beaches I think could be a little bit of distraction, even if you don't plan on it being one."
Several key players sat out Tuesday's practice with a stomach virus--QB Jake Heaps and OL Matt Reynolds among them.
More from Bronco Mendenhall--
When asked about the season-ending injuries sustained by four tight ends:
"It's been a remarkable thing. We have Marcus Mathews and (Kaneakua) Friel that have playing experience left. I think it's been, well not Devin Mahina because of his neck, but the other two were ACL's which are significant injuries with long recoveries so that is also kind of sad."
When asked about his experience last week with rewarding sophomore receiver and punt returner J.D. Falslev with a scholarship:
"It's one of the coolest things you get to do as a head coach, reward hard work. If I had my way in college football in general, I think it would solve a ton of problems if players came in and had to earn their scholarship rather then be given it on the front end and J.D. is a good example of that."