The 2010 BYU Cougars conducted their final full-scale practice of the season today in a downpour at a high school football stadium on Albuquerque's east side.
Afterwards, in a quick interview in the rain, coach Bronco Mendenhall said the team is ready, and that Thursday's practice was a lot better than the one on Wednesday after the Cougars had just arrived in town.
"Really eager," was Mendenhall's description of the players right now. "And I think they feel very prepared at this point. Kind of the arrival here, and all the newness of bowl week is . ... They are having fun, they are appreciating it, but the closer the game gets, the more it is kind of shifting to, 'we came here to play a game.' And so a lot of energy and enthusiasm, mostly, because they wanted to hustle through it and get out of the cold. But I think it went well."
Mendenhall said the wet weather actually contributed to the team's high energy level.
UTEP has been practicing at New Mexico's practice field, but those workouts have been closed to what team officials have called "the BYU media."
I'm not complaining, though. UTEP media relations officials bent over backwards to get me a one-on-one interview with coach Mike Price, and you can read that profile in Friday's newspaper. BYU's practices are technically closed to everybody, but there's been media availability after each practice here for everybody. Even the "UTEP media."
I also wrote a little bit about Mitch Payne, BYU's senior kicker. Due to space limitations, I wasn't able to get in Mendenhall's comments on Payne's contribution to the program.
On what Mitch Payne has meant to the program:
"Just consistency. He's had a great career here, and is completely reliable, and [he had] big shoes to fill. But I never worried when he went out there to kick that he wouldn't do a good job, and that he will be prepared. And so that's one less thing a head coach has to worry about, with a reliable kicker," Mendenhall said.
Much has been made of how little the Cougars were able to practice between their last regular season game and now, partly due to having to play in the first bowl game of the season, and also because this is finals week.
Mendenhall's assessment, now that it is over:
"I think it has gone really well. Harder this particular year with finals, to get our full squad [together] the last few days before we got here. So I felt a little bit more urgency to meet a little bit longer while we're here to move them more toward football, because of the finals.
The last four days, really, were trying to balance, and work practice around finals without a full team here. So we had to [have] a little bit longer meetings, trying to catch up."