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The upcoming Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas means a return home for three of BYU's front-line Texans. But unlike LB Brandon Ogletree and WR Ross Apo, wideout McKay Jacobson enters the game knowing it will be the final contest of his Cougar career.
Of the impending end of his collegiate playing days, Jacobson said it hasn't sunk in yet. "I haven't thought too much about it. I'm just focused on this next game."
The Dec. 30 game at SMU's Gerald J. Ford Stadium will represent BYU's third trip to the Lone Star State this season; the Cougars previously played the Texas Longhorns in Austin and the TCU Horned Frogs at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. As a native of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, Jacobson is looking forward to what he hopes is a charming third trip to Texas.
"I grew up Southlake, which is in the Dallas area," he explained. "It's fun to go back home. It's nice for my family to come to the games. It makes it easier and more fun."
On being able to play his final college matchup on familiar ground, Jacobson said that "it's definitely a good opportunity. It should be a memorable one. I think we're preparing the way that we should in order to go out and play the game, and we'll keep on preparing the way we know how and go out there and have some fun."
Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall, however, was happy to share some of his reflections on Jacobson and the role he played in helping BYU's recent resurgence.
"He was my first major big-name recruit," Mendenhall recalled. "I remember taking his commitment he was highly sought-after and that was I think my first or second year. I remember talking to him about what was possible here and the number of wins and it has really worked out pretty well."
The coach continued, saying "I appreciate his trust to come here when the program was coming off a rocky stretch, and I think he's had a good experience. There is a steadiness to him and it's pretty fitting that he gets to finish in Texas for his last game."
Texas natives Apo (Arlington) and Ogletree (McKinney) are also homeward-bound, and even though BYU has made helpful use of the school's indoor practice facility, an escape from the Utah winter comes at a welcome time.
"I'm happy to go home," Apo said, adding with a grimace, "I always enjoy playing in warm weather. It's sure a lot better than this weather over here."
Ogletree, sitting next to his teammate against the wall after Tuesday's practice, laughed and added, "Every once in a while it can get down to the 30's or 20's with a cold front, but it's usually around 50's or 60's in Texas."
Apo discussed the familial benefits of playing in his home region three times this season, but Ogletree admitted that players have to be aware of the possibility of family being a distraction.
"When we go down for a game, it's basically a business trip," said Ogletree, "so the only time we try to see them is at the fireside the night before," he said, referencing the team's tradition of holding firesides with local stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints the night before an away game.
Ogletree continued, saying, "Sometimes (family and friends) stop by the hotel, but I don't really prefer that. There's a reason we're in the hotel, but it's cool to see them at the fireside and at the game."
You can hear post-practice interviews with Mendenhall, Jacobson, Apo and Ogletree in "Cougar Cuts," above left.
When asked about the context of the three games in Texas this season, Mendenhall said "the circumstances surrounding each game have been so different."
"Playing against the University of Texas in their stadium was a great experience even though we lost by a point. Then we got to play in (Cowboys) Stadium, which is another fantastic venue, and now we're back for a bowl game so if there are games like that, you could go there three, four, five, or six more times because they're so distinct and different. They're worthy opponents and good games, and I think this one in particular is a great way for our seniors to end."
Being one among those seniors, Jacobson expressed the importance of defeating Tulsa, saying "It means a lot. It's your last college game and we want to finish strong and end it with a win. That's the way to go out. That's what everyone wants to do."
The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl will be heard on KSL Newsradio (102.7 FM and 1160 AM) and BYU Radio (SiriusXM 143), with pregame coverage starting at 8:00 am MT on Dec. 30. The game kicks at 10:00 am, and will be televised on ESPN.