Provo • Some BYU football players said they would just as soon have a game this week and keep their momentum going after the Cougars walloped Georgia Tech 41-17 on Saturday in their best overall performance of the season.
Others are thankful for the bye, because, as receiver and kick returner JD Falslev and coach Bronco Mendenhall both said, BYU is a banged up football team right now, after nine straight games without a break.
But all the Cougars agree that the bye is going to be much more enjoyable because they are coming off a win against a relatively high-profile opponent, Georgia Tech, on the road. The alternative would not have been fun, quarterback Riley Nelson said.
“We have a bye week, so we don’t have to immediately move on to the next opponent,” Nelson said after throwing for 204 yards and a touchdown. “We are going to let this one sink in and enjoy it for a little while.”
In a little less than two weeks, the Cougars (5-4) will play perhaps the weakest team on their 2012 schedule, 1-7 Idaho. That Nov. 10 game at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m., ESPNU) will be followed by a game against San Jose State (6-2) that now looks much more difficult than it did two months ago.
The regular season for BYU ends on Nov. 24 at 1-7 New Mexico.
The Cougars escaped the Yellow Jackets’ cut-blocking offensive attack without a serious injury, Mendenhall said, noting that, “normally this is one [game] that you just count on being bloodied and battered and bruised. But we are good.”
Still, they have major depth issues along the offensive and defensive lines, and the time off should help in that regard.
“Our guys were holding on [against Tech],” Mendenhall said. “We could hardly practice in terms of physically going out against each other. We worked really hard, but there were no players left. So we need to get a few guys back. I don’t think [the bye] will dampen the momentum, I think it will add to it. That’s the way I will present it, and try to structure it in that manner.”
Having lost Houston Reynolds for the season, Famika Anae to medical retirement and Braden Hansen for 2-4 weeks with a groin tear, BYU’s offensive line desperately needs some time regroup.
“It is going to be hard to finish the season just with the numbers [of healthy offensive linemen] we have,” Mendenhall said.
The Idaho game should prolong the breather.
If the Vandals, who had a bye last weekend, aren’t the worst team in the Football Bowl Subdivision, they are close. Idaho ranks 123rd in scoring at just 16 points per game, and is 120th in scoring defense, allowing 42.0 ppg.
Coach Robb Akey was fired after a 70-28 loss at Louisiana Tech last week, and former Utah Blaze quarterback Jason Gesser, the interim coach, will make his debut on Saturday at home against San Jose State.
By the 10th, Nelson predicts the Cougars will be eager to play again.
“Wins are hard to come by in college football, and we have a tradition of winning. I don’t want to say we take it for granted, but sometimes it doesn’t mean as much to you as other [times]. Right now as we are battling and grinding and suffering some tough losses, to come away with a win in a setting like [Georgia Tech], boy, is really satisfying and makes you feel really good,” Nelson said.
BYU’s remaining opponents
Nov. 10 • Idaho (1-7)
Nov. 17 • San Jose State (6-2)
Nov. 24 • New Mexico State (1-7)