Provo • Ron McBride is pitching a barbecue joint, coaching in the Arena Football League and yukking it up with LaVell Edwards on a weekly radio show these days, but the former Utah and Weber State football coach is largely responsible for what will transpire Saturday afternoon at the stadium that bears Edwards’ name.
A year too late for Coach Mac’s liking, BYU (1-0) will play host to the lower-division Wildcats in a college football game for the first time since 1979. Kickoff is at 1 p.m., and the game will be televised nationally by BYUtv.
“Coach McBride was interested in playing [for several years],” BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “We just couldn’t hook up for the right setup on our schedule. But this year it fit nicely in terms of the schedule. ... I can’t say it is going to happen every year, but it seemed like the right thing to do.”
Mendenhall said that if the Cougars are going to play an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA), he wants it to be either Weber State, Southern Utah or Idaho State, the team BYU demolished 56-3 last year, because there is some regional interest.
Whatever the reasons and timing, the game should serve as a tuneup of sorts for the Cougars, who travel to Salt Lake City next Saturday for the rivalry game with the Utes. Weber State lost 37-10 last week at Fresno State, and comes into the game under interim coach Jody Sears as a huge underdog.
However, the Cougars have said all week they won’t look past the in-state foe, with Mendenhall drawing upon his experience as an assistant at I-AA Northern Arizona to persuade his team that the biggest difference between FBS and FCS schools is depth, not talent.
“In terms of our first 11 out there, on either side, we didn’t think there was a giant discrepancy,” he said of his time coaching the Lumberjacks.
Rather than look ahead to Utah, Mendenhall said the Cougars spent the week trying to get better, and will do the same in the game after walloping the Pac-12’s Washington State 30-6 last week.
“I want to play good football, I want to play good defense, and I just want it to be week in and week out for the entire season,” he said. “It was a nice start, but as we all know in this profession, that goes away pretty quickly, so we are looking to build on that, and play better, and eliminate the mistakes if we can.”
Expect to see a conservative, vanilla attack from BYU’s offense, which isn’t about to show anything new with road games at Utah and Boise State lurking.
“I don’t worry about all that stuff,” BYU quarterback Riley Nelson said. “I look at Saturday as an opportunity to go out and execute. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. If we prepare for the opponent and execute the game plan, that is going to give us a chance to win every game.”
Star receiver Cody Hoffman, who left the opener late in the first quarter with a quad contusion, said the Cougars will have no trouble getting up for a team they are favored to beat by five touchdowns.
“We can’t take games lightly, because that is how teams get beat,” he said.
Weber State at BYU
P Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (Provo)
Kickoff • 1 p.m.
TV • BYUtv. Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 1-0, Weber State 0-1
Series • BYU leads, 2-0
Last meeting • BYU 48, Weber State 3 (1979)
About the BYU Cougars • They have won five straight games, dating back to 2011, tied for the third-longest streak in the nation. ... Cody Hoffman has caught a pass in 20 consecutive games. ... They are 32-13-1 against Big Sky Conference teams.
About the Wildcats • They are coming off a 37-10 loss to Fresno State in which they rushed for just 67 yards but passed for 207. ... Receiver Jordan Clemente had nine catches for 51 yards in the loss.