Two days after their 40-21 demolition of Texas on national television, the BYU Cougars were back on the practice field Monday, with head coach Bronco Mendenhall seeking to "set the vibe" heading into a bye week and a looming matchup with Utah.
Mendenhall said the early part of the week would focus on "fundamentals and younger-player development," with preparation for Utah picking up on Thursday; players will then be given the weekend off. The Cougars and Utes will play in Provo one week from Saturday at 8:15 p.m. MT on ESPN2.
"I was really encouraged by how hard our team played," said Mendenhall of his team's performance last Saturday night. "They were physical, they sustained blocks, they blocked downfield, they ran the ball well."
"The entire team played with the same effort and intensity, and were determined to win. It looked great, and on paper, (but) there's a lot to improve, still. I think the players left today encouraged and optimistic (about) what they saw, but also believe they can be a lot better."
You can hear post-practice interviews with Mendenhall, offensive coordinator Robert Anae, quarterback Taysom Hill, offensive linemen Michael Yeck and Brayden Kearsley, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy, in "Cougar Cuts," above left.
BYU ran for a school-record 550 yards against the Longhorns, behind a largely reconfigured offensive line that featured only one player starting where he did the week before in a season-opening loss at Virginia.
Yeck moved from right tackle to left tackle in the front-line shake-up; he says of the improvement in play that "it's a very good feeling and we loved it. We were super-pumped and got tons of pats on the back on Sunday."
"As with anything," said Yeck, "you go in and you see the film and whenever you see that film, you never do as bad as you think you did but you also never do as good as you think we did. We have a lot to improve on and we're just really getting started."
Anae said the offensive line's efforts even earned acknowledgement and praise from his former longtime position coach at BYU.
"I did receive a call from Coach (Roger) French over the weekend. He said it's the biggest transformation from week one to week two that he's seen in his career as a college football player and coach. For the Cougar faithful that want to kinda know the nuts-and-bolts of the program, I really believe there's a lot there."
Asked if he "got a vibe" from the offensive line group today, coming off the win, Mendenhall said instead that he met with the entire team, as he usually does on Mondays, noting that "I'm usually looking to more 'set the vibe,' than 'feel the vibe.' I'll feel the vibe maybe Tuesday or Wednesday."
Mendenhall said while the weekend win "gives everyone something positive to talk about," the staff will "keep asking for more" from the players.
"We upped our intensity and expectation significantly from week one to week two," Mendenhall said on Monday. "That was the message to the team today: if they want those kinds of results, then their preparation in practice will be similar."
"They'll choose whether to sustain it or not."
For the first time since 1953, a bye week precedes the Utah game for BYU; questioned as to whether the open week was intentionally scheduled, Mendenhall said "no, not necessarily...it was just how it worked out."
As for the game itself, Van Noy is among a number of BYU players who have identified the rivalry game as the biggest game on the Cougars' schedule. The All-America candidate says the approach should not be considered surprising, or over-the-top.
"I can't speak for former guys or former players," Van Noy said, "but I think we're here to stand. We're not going anywhere and we're making it clear that we're ready to play."
"Nobody has said anything negative or bad about them; all we've said is we're ready to play."
Hill says shifting gears from the Longhorns to the Utes has already taken place.
"We've shifted; it's done," said Hill after practice. "Texas was a great win. We have a lot of good things to build off, but we have a lot of things we need to fix, too. Everybody's now focused on Utah."
"There's nothing to hang our hat on. We had a good game and we're gonna build off of that. Our focus is now Utah, and we need to get a win."
Photo: Courtesy BYU Photo