BYU prepares for 'unique matchup' with Nevada

BYU prepares for 'unique matchup' with Nevada

(BYU Photo/Mark Philbrick)



Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes

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PROVO — BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall has had plenty of time to look at his team's loss at Notre Dame last week, and he liked what he saw of the Cougars' effort against the Fighting Irish in South Bend, Ind.

"I thought the team tried hard, and fell short through execution," Mendenhall said after practice Tuesday. "A few critical plays, a slow start defensively and the blocked kick at the end; I'm disappointed that we didn't make the necessary plays we needed to make."

One player who didn't disappoint was wide receiver JD Falslev. The senior team captain returned after missing two weeks with a broken hand, grabbing a touchdown pass from quarterback Taysom Hill in the 23-13 loss. The moment proved more special as a number of Falslev's family members made the trek to South Bend for the game.

"It's something I'll never forget, and my family won't either," Falslev said. "It's a special thing to be at such an iconic place, and being able to score. We didn't win, so that's bittersweet. But at the same time, I recognize how few individuals in this world have ever scored there, and to think about being on that list is pretty cool."

Falslev rushed back from injury thanks to additional time with his physical therapist and a heavy dose of surgery to place multiple rods in his hand. It's not perfect, but the surgical procedure will allow the senior to play out his final season for BYU.

"In football, you're going to play through pain," Falslev said. "As long as I'm not hurting anything more, I can play through that."

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With the Cougars' attention turned to the regular-season finale at Nevada, Mendenhall couldn't help but look to the past -- to the last time BYU faced the Wolf Pack.

"We've played Reno one time since I've been the coach, when (former head coach) Chris Ault was there with (current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin) Kaepernick, and they beat us," Mendenhall said. "I don't remember much of the game other than their quarterback. I remember that feeling."

BYU lost the 2010 matchup in Reno, 27-13 but still owns a 4-2-2 advantage in the all-time series. But Mendenhall hopes to that game back this weekend.

"Their offense is very, very similar to ours," he added. "The styles -- a mobile quarterback, good running game, big receivers on the outside; it's a pretty unique matchup."

Kickoff for that game is scheduled for 1:04 p.m. MST on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM/1160 AM and the NuSkin Cougar/IMG Sports Network.

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After three straight weeks of freezing temperatures, playing on the road at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains should be normal for BYU. But the weather still sticks out to wide receiver Ross Apo.

"I think it's going to be a fun game; a pretty cold one," Apo said with a laugh. "Talking to (Reno native Kyle Van Noy), I think his family bought over 100 tickets. He obviously knows a lot of people there, and he's probably going to pack the stands more than the people who play there."

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Before hitting the road, the Cougars will spend Thanksgiving at home. The team was evenly split between favoriting food and football for "turkey day," but all seemed grateful for the chance to play at BYU.

"I'm thankful for my parents, the team, coaches, and everybody who has had my back over the years," Apo said. "There have been a lot of struggles over the years." Family was a consistent theme for Falslev, as well.

"I'm more looking forward to spending time with my family," he said, "being there and being home, even if it's just for a few hours."

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You can listen to post-practice audio from Coach Mendenhall, JD Falslev, Dan Sorensen and Ross Apo by clicking on the links in "Cougar Cuts," above left.

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Sean Walker is a KSL Newsradio BYU intern.

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