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BYU head football coach Bronco Mendenhall believes his team’s chances against Utah this week are very simple to explain.
“We win if we hold onto the ball,” he said on Monday after practice. “We lose if we don’t. It really is that cut and dry.”
Last season, BYU turned the ball over seven times against the Utes. We all know the result. So far this season, the Cougars and the Utes are both plus-two in turnover margin. It’s early, but both teams have taken care of the ball relatively well in 2012, but something will have to break Saturday night.
- Utah (1-1, 0-0 Pac-12) vs. No. 25 BYU (2-0)
- Date: Saturday September 15, 2012
- Time: 8:15 p.m. MDT
- Site: Rice-Eccles Stadium (45,017/FieldTurf)
- TV: ESPN2
- Utah Radio: ESPN700
- BYU Radio: KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM 1160 AM
- Series Record: Utah leads 55-34-4
- Last Meeting: 2011 (Utah 54-10)
- Kickoff Weather: Clear, temps in the mid-70s
Mendenhall believes his defense is just as good as Utah’s. When asked about Utah’s defense he pulled a presidential debate pivot, almost immediately moving from the Ute defense to his own.
“I think they’re talented and big and physical,” he said. “When you look statistically, both defenses are playing really well so it’ll be interesting to see how that shakes out.”
In a game that many are predicting will be a defensive slugfest, Mendenhall believes that the whoever wins the game on the ground will win the game on the scoreboard.
“I think it’ll be important for both sides,” he said. “Knowing that turnovers have (determined) so much of these games, if you can run it there is less of a risk than if you throw it. I think both teams will work hard to establish a run game.”
With the injury and subsequent retirement of Jordan Wynn, Mendenhall and the Cougars will have to prepare for the possibility of either Jon Hays or Travis Wilson at quarterback. Mendenhall says he can only imagine what it would be like to have to hang up the cleats.
“I feel for Jordan Wynn,” he said. “He’s battled and come back, battled and come back, battled and come back. It’s hard. I’m sure that’s hard for him.”
Mendenhall heard about Wynn’s injury after his team’s Friday night fireside last week when he checked in on the Utah-Utah State game with his players. Though he felt bad for Wynn, he thought the game was certainly entertaining.
“It was a fun game to watch,” he said. “I got back and there were five-ish minutes left and I saw that part with our team. Both teams tried hard. Utah State started strong, and then believed they could win the longer it went.”
Mendenhall said he knows the pain the Utes felt after coming up short on Friday night against an in-state rival.
“To have two field goal chances right at the end, and then overtime in the end,” he said. “It was a great in-state game, and we’ve had our share of those.”
Speaking of in-state games, many fans may think that BYU coaches will be using last year’s blowout loss to the Utes as motivation, but Mendenhall says he doesn’t even remember most of it.
“We watched it today and I could hardly remember it to be honest,” he said. “I remembered three or four of the plays that worked against us, but I had forgotten about all of the turnovers and all the different things that had happened.”
The Cougars will take on the Utes in Salt Lake City at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday night at 8:15 on ESPN2. If the Cougars win the turnover battle, odds are they’ll win the game. If turnovers rear their ugly heads again on Saturday, Mendenhall may not have such a hard time remembering those from 2011.
Trevor Amicone is the founder of byutahinsiders.com, which covers BYU, Utah and national college football with weekly polls, bowl projections, opinions and analysis. Follow its brand new Twitter page at @BYUtahInsiders and Trevor's at @TrevorAmicone.