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(Provo) - For most college football teams, a 10-3 season would be cause for celebration. That wasn't the case for BYU in 2008
They finished 3rd in the Mountain West standings after back-to-back titles. They came out flat and were blown out in a big road game at TCU. Then they finished the season losing big to hated rival Utah followed by a disappointing performance against Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl.
"It was tough," said Senior Defensive End Jan Jorgensen. "It took me a long time to get over it."
Those losses were extremely painful for fans and, especially, for the players. But it's very possible that those disappointing losses in 2008 could make the Cougars a better team in 2009. The experience has motivated them to become better.
"We're still using that as motivation," said Senior Tight End Dennis Pitta. We haven't even had a game yet this season. So, We're still thinking about last season and the bad taste we had in our mouth. We're using that as fuel to the fire this offseason."
"You're always going to have a bad taste in your mouth with a game like that, said Senior Quarterback Max Hall. "But I think, for the most part, we've moved on. We're excited about '09, we're excited about what we can do this year and the challenges ahead of us."
Players took out their frustration in the weight room and in team conditioning drills during the offseason and the team believes it will pay off this fall.
"It's been a great offseason," said Junior Running Back Harvey Unga. "Guys have been working hard. The whole team has been doing a lot of work and putting a lot of effort into this. The urgency is there. I can tell a difference in the team this season." Their hard work in the offseason was evident to Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall on the first day of practice Saturday.
"We're all hungrier. We might not be as sharp but mindset wise, hungrier and more anxious to play. At the end of last season I didn't think we were eager to play and it was an endurance test. This is a lot more fun."
Fun was not a word the Cougars used last fall.
"It was just a business-like attitude. We came in like we were just putting in a day at the office." Jorgensen remembers.
But players noticed the difference on day one of camp.
"It is an absolute different feel," said Hall. "It's just fun being out here. Guys are flying around. Even this morning running up to the "Y", which usually is not very fun, we had fun doing it and, so, I like our team and like the feel of it.
"We're out here having fun," said Pitta. "The tempo is right, the energy is right, now it's just about executing."
"I think we've really gotten back to that," said Jorgensen. "You saw it in Spring Ball and you saw it today. Guys were having a lot of fun."
No one wants to put the bad taste of last years ending behind them and have fun more than Max Hall and history says he will have no problem doing so.
In the last 35 years, every BYU senior QB who has been the team's clear-cut starter for the entire season has led the Cougars to a conference championship.
His ability to overcome his painful experience in the final two games of 2008 will be vital to the team's success in 2009.
"He's ready," says Pitta. "He's a competitor. He's ready to go. He had a great offseason and worked really hard. We have the utmost confidence in him and going forward in this season."
"My mindset is that we have a great football team," Hall said. "If I can just manage the football game, limit my mistakes, and be a senior quarterback when I'm supposed to be a senior quarterback then I think we can win a lot of football games."