BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall appeared on Jim Rome's radio show Tuesday morning to discuss the program's big 40-21 win over No. 15 Texas and wound up talking about a variety of issues, including the rivalry with the University of Utah and why he changed his mind on the decision to put the core values on the backs of players' jerseys.
Bronco also talked about the go hard, go fast offense, the types of players he recruits to BYU, why good friend Texas coach Mack Brown fired his defensive coordinator, and more.
Here's a transcript of the interview (questions from Rome are paraphrased), which last almost 12 minutes:
On the season-opening loss to Virginia and what he came away from there thinking about his team:
"I had a lot of questions about my team. Not necessarily about the type of young men that I have, or the reason or purpose we are playing the game here. We have gone to a different style of offense, certainly uptempo, one of the fastest in the country.
I thought I had a great idea of where we currently stood coming out of fall camp, and how many points we would generate, in relation to the [number] of plays we were running. And that didn't happen in our opener.
It put an extreme amount of pressure on our defense, running more plays, and we didn't get the point total offensive.
Man, where I thought we were and where we were were two different places. We had a ton of work to do in getting ready for Texas, which was just one week away from that game."
On improving the most from first game to second game:
"That's exactly how it played out, and I was hopeful that we would see that. Our team embraced a more stringent and certainly more difficult practice regimen. We knew we were facing certainty in terms of a really good opponent coming in and having to get a lot of work out of the players. Luckily they trusted me. Luckily they embraced that expectation and they believed that if we did put in this amount of work, we would have a great chance to be successful."
On what the go fast, go hard offense is all about:
"Well, there was 99 plays run offensively against the University of Texas. Basically, we believe we have really unique kids at BYU. Physically fit, mentally fit. They have completely different standards than most of the kids their age, and they try really hard and are competitive.
So we thought by giving them a strategic advantage of going super fast, with some option elements, some run elements, and some pass elements, that no matter who we played, we could break into possibly the elite tier of college football and compete for a national championship, which is our ultimate goal.
And so we are looking for a strategic advantage through tempo, with our type of kids, to play and compete against anybody in the world."
On the competitiveness, and whether you can recruit that, or coach it:
"I think it is both. It certainly has to be something that you recruit. The average freshman that comes into BYU right now is about a 3.9 GPA, a 29 on the ACT. So they are already competitive by nature in terms of what they have accomplished in the classroom.
And so we really see that as a strength. I think any coach, which is nothing other than teaching, any teacher believes that they can help develop and bring out the best in who they are teaching. I think you have to believe you can develop that to some extent. At least, that's what we believe."
On the big numbers they put up against Texas and saying before the game that they were not afraid of Texas:
"I would be lying if I ever said I knew how any game was going to turn out. I have had an inkling of whether we might win or lose, or what the game might look like in terms of competitiveness. I saw Texas' athletes and I know coach Brown and I have a lot of respect for them. No idea that we would make the jump from week one to week two with that type of, man, severity, I guess I would say.
But the big plays, when you are playing the type of offense we run, and if there is an assignment mistake, the chance that that can go the whole way, and be explosive, is super impactful, as well as, 'here comes the next play before you have a chance to get your breath.' And that's what happened a number of times."
On Taysom Hill rushing for 259 yards and whether he showed anything Bronco didn't already know:
"Well, what I did know is No. 1, no matter how many times I tell him to slide, it is not going to happen. He's not going to do that. I both love him for that, and don't like it for the program's future. But Taysom is one of the most talented players that plays the game. He's big, he's fast, he's tough, he's strong. He surprised me with the fact of how durable he is. To run the ball for over 200 yards with big plays, with short plays, with physical plays, at some point I was thinking he just can't keep doing this. Nor as a program was I sure I wanted him to keep doing that, in terms of longevity. But he surprised me with how tough and durable he was."
On Texas firing def. coordinator Manny Diaz and his reaction to that:
"I was saddened by it, not only for the assistant coach, but really for coach Brown in having to make that decision. The pressures that are on him and football coaches are hard to describe, and I believe though, that the motive most likely, in knowing coach Brown, is that he was doing what he thought was best to have success.
Hard for me to question or to speculate, but that is the best guess I could take at it."
On whether this was the type of win that can chance the trajectory of the season:
"I think both. That might be a cop-out to say, but our days at the office have been just like they have normally been after that game, and preparing for our next opponent, etc. However, the national perception of the program, as we continue to fight for national prominence, not just in the top 25, but more, has changed through other people, and more people, being able to see us on the biggest stage, against a big opponent, and have that kind of success. And I think the biggest thing that has changed is, 'what if BYU can do that? And to somebody else, etc.? And that's a fun thing to think about it."
On whether he would like to play again this week, or whether it is better to have extra week to prepare for Utah:
"Man, I have been asked that this week, and if I were to just lay it all out there, I would rather keep playing. When you come off a game like that, with as clean and as clear as we are establishing our identity and how well we played, I believe in momentum, and I like it. So to be brutally honest with my team, I told them that exact same thing.
And now say that is our ideal. But this is what happens now, so let's face the brutal facts. We have next week to prepare. Let's use it to our advantage. And I think that's the way you continue to grow and gain trust and credibility with the players you are coaching, and people in general.
Just tell them the truth, and then acknowledge what you have to do to make the best of your situation."
On how he would describe the Utah-BYU rivalry:
"Fierce, as you just said, but it is more than a rivalry. And I think anytime, and I am not just saying this because I am at BYU, anytime religion, or I guess you could say politics is in it. Anytime that those two things are then part of a rivalry, there is this personal element that starts to take shape. Not only is it school against school, there is this person against person. Then it starts to touch the hearts and minds of people, and makes them really do things they normally wouldn't do. And it is an amazing experience, not always fun, based on the outcome."
On whether it feels like a Holy War, of sorts:
"That's the nickname of it, and I get criticized frequently for saying we are doing more here than football, but it is a religious institution, privately owned. The number one reason all the student-athletes list in coming to this school is for their faith. So it really is more than football, but folks don't like to hear that, they don't like to go there with that. They want to make it just football, but when you play this game, it certainly becomes more than that, which I think validates, kinda, my message."
On how important it is that current BYU senior class does not go 0-4 against Utah:
"It has become relevant from the senior class to me. And that's the more powerful way to impact a program, is when the leadership of the team says, 'Coach, anything we can do different? What else can we do to help?' And once that happens, we all know as teachers it is hard to teach someone that doesn't want to be taught. But when the students are coming or those under your care are saying, 'what else can we do?' That's a great place to be, and I think that is where we are now."
On the interruption of the rivalry with Utah the next two years:
"It is disappointing, not so much that it is just our game against Utah, but really what I see in the conference landscape in general, is that this idea of joining a conference that is not regional -- and I am not talking about Utah specifically now, I am talking about other conference realignments -- for money, for exposure, at the expense of the regional games that are lost along the way, I think sends a negative tone about college football in general.
It is amateur sports, it is for student-athletes, and it is what makes it great, to play these regional games. And for those to go away, not only ours, but others around the country, I think we have a chance to lose what might make college football one of the most unique settings and unique events in the world."
On taking names off jerseys and replacing them with core values and why he changed his mind:
"Simply, because they didn't like it. I really thought -- it is kind of like getting my wife an anniversary present, I am thrilled thinking I got her something she would love, and I get a reaction [that shows] she didn't like it. I said man, how many of you would like to take ... tradition, spirit and honor off, which are our core buzzwords, and they all raised their hands and said we would rather have our names.
I said, great, let's do it, and they all laughed. It was only about a five-minute meeting. And then one of the players, Kyle Van Noy, our outside linebacker, said coach, how about if we put those words on our backs for our homecoming game? And I said, 'fantastic solution." And our problem was solved. So really I just learned a lesson, that sometimes I feel like I have the pulse of the program, and then I didn't.
But I want to do and represent what the players believe in, and I believe in, not just me. So that's the way we worked it out."