BYU football: Confident Cougars relishing extra prep time for Utah
Provo • Saturday night's punishing 40-21 win over then-No. 15 Texas was shocking in and of itself for the BYU Cougars, but after the game coach Bronco Mendenhall's team had a few more surprises to share.
For instance, the Cougars finally talked as if the rivalry game with Utah on Sept. 21 at LaVell Edwards Stadium really is different from all the others, after taking the tact in the Mendenhall era that it is just another big game on their schedule, nothing more.
"It is huge. This is like the Super Bowl," said linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
Perhaps the Cougars (1-1) talked more openly about facing the Utes because they have a bye this week, while Utah prepares to host Oregon State on Saturday. Whatever the case, it was somewhat refreshing to hear them acknowledge the significance of the annual showdown.
In past years, after the game preceding the rivalry game, BYU players were forbidden from even discussing the Utes until Monday. The kickoff time and television broadcast plans are expected to be announced Monday.
"There's no lying. I am 0-3 against them, and I want to win," Van Noy said. "It is plain and simple: I want to beat them. They don't like us, and we don't like them, and that's OK. It is going to be a bloodbath, and we are going to show up for it. We are going to rally the troops in this bye week, and we are going to come ready."
No question, the way the Cougars throttled Texas rushing for a school-record 550 yards and posting 679 total yards injected a much-needed boost of confidence. And they can now say their performance cost a defensive coordinator his job, much like Utah State's 31-16 win over BYU in 2010 cost Jaime Hill his job.
Texas coach Mack Brown on Sunday fired Manny Diaz, and replaced him with Greg Robinson. Diaz doggedly stuck to his game plan Saturday as BYU quarterback Taysom Hill gashed the Longhorns time and again with big runs. Hill rushed for 259 yards, second-most in school history behind Eldon Fortie, who had 272 against George Washington in 1962.
"We couldn't stop the run," Brown said after the game. "That's basically the story of the game."
BYU defensive back Skye PoVey said being 1-1 heading into the rivalry game, instead of 0-2, is huge for the Cougars' confidence.
"Now we are back even and we just upset a team. And now we have Utah coming in," PoVey said. "Every game, every Saturday, is huge. So, yeah, we got a big game coming up, and we will use the time to get healthy, but also to prepare. Coach Mendenhall will have us prepared to play Utah."
Somewhat lost in Hill's play and the overall rushing totals was the performance of sophomore Jamaal Williams, who now has carried the ball 63 times for 326 yards. A California native, Williams said he is just "starting to learn" what the rivalry is all about.
"I am trying to get the hate, but I am still learning," he said. "... I just want to help the team beat Utah and I know this is an important game for us."
Mendenhall said prior to the Texas game that the Cougars could win if they held the Longhorns to fewer than 24 points. Texas racked up 445 yards, but was just 5 of 17 on third down and 0 of 3 on fourth down.
An unsung defensive star was safety Daniel Sorensen, who had four pass breakups and seven tackles.
"I am 0-3 against Utah," Sorensen said. "Lost to them in 2008, 2011, and 2012. So we are going to take full advantage of the time we have to prepare. We are going to enjoy Texas tonight, maybe even tomorrow. By the time Monday comes around, we will be focused and ready to go for Utah."
BYU's result in week prior to facing Utah
2009 Defeated Air Force, 38-21
2010 Defeated New Mexico, 40-7
2011 Lost to Texas, 17-16
2012 Defeated Weber State, 45-13