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Bronco Mendenhall says he remembers very few of his team's 43 wins, and even fewer of his losses, but one of the games he says he remembers well was BYU's 31-10 setback at San Diego State in 2005.
BYU was only four games into the Mendenhall/Anae era on offense, but at 1-3 on the year, Bronco knew the Cougars could not succeed long-term if they continued with the unbalanced, pass-heavy offense that sputtered in San Diego on that September night.
In that loss to the Aztecs (a team that would finish 5-7 on the year), the Cougars passed the ball 49 times, handed the ball off only 11 times (while averaging 5.3 yards per carry), and were punchless in accumulating only 305 yards of offense.
It was after that game that Mendenhall decided BYU needed to leave behind certain elements of the "Texas Tech Offense," get back to basics and run the football for balance and production if his team was to make its "return to glory."
Since that night, balance has been the watchword, and BYU's run game has been integral to the Cougars' recent success. In the Mendenhall era, the Cougars are 37-6 when rushing for 100+ yards, and 13-1 when topping 200 (by the way, BYU is 17-3 when holding opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground).
When BYU has manged to run for 200 yards and throw for 300, the Cougars are 3-0 under Mendenhall, and 37-0 since 1972.
Did You Know?...
BYU has had a thousand-yard rusher in four consecutive seasons for the first time in school history, with Harvey Unga on pace to make it five in a row.
More notably, only once before had BYU even had back-to-back thousand-yard rushers before Robert Anae took over as offensive coordinator in 2005; 1997 (Brian McKenzie--1,004 yds) and 1998 (Ronney Jenkins--1,307 yds).
Just how far are BYU and Anae from the Texas Tech scheme Anae brought with him from Lubbock? Well, the last time a Texas Tech back ran for 1,000 yards in a season was in 1998, when "the other" Ricky Williams had 1,582 yards.
Two years later, Mike Leach took over as head coach, and the Red Raiders haven't had a thousand-yard back in the last 11 years. Not that Leach really cares that much; the Texas Tech offense is a single-back, no fullback, no tight end spread that simply doesn't equate to the kinds of seasons Curtis Brown and Harvey Unga have produced in BYU's pro-style scheme.
While the Texas Tech approach has resulted in lots of points and wins in Lubbock, Bronco Mendenhall decided early on that it was not going to be as productive in Provo--and the genesis of that decision was a game played four years and two weeks ago in the same stadium BYU visits Saturday afternoon.
BYU has beaten the Aztecs in each of the last three meetings, scoring 41 points or more in all three games, and the way the Cougar offense is rolling right now, we could reasonably expect more of the same.
But this might be where a certain someone drops a "not so fast, my friend."
Rocky Long is the new defensive coordinator at SDSU, and if there's one thing Rocky knows how to do, it's keep BYU in check.
Starting with Long's first season as head coach at New Mexico (1998), BYU has scored an average of 27.2 points per game against the Lobos, but in the last eight games, that average is down to 23.1 points per game (with BYU scoring fewer than 20 points three times).
More importantly, in those last eight meetings with UNM, the average scoring margin was a scant 6.1 points per game in BYU's favor; the Lobos played the Cougars close, and Bronco Mendenhall thinks this year's Aztec defense is capable of playing it tight with BYU on Saturday.