BYU football: Rested Cougars expect an angry Utah team Saturday
Provo • The BYU Cougars turned into an angry and driven football team the week following their season-opening 19-16 loss at Virginia, and that manifested itself in a punishing 40-21 victory over the No. 15 Texas Longhorns on Sept. 7.
For that reason, and also because the rivalry game almost always brings out a fanatical effort from Utah, the Cougars (1-1) are expecting an angry bunch of Utes to invade LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).
Utah (2-1) fell 51-48 in overtime to Oregon State just before midnight Saturday in a wild, offense-filled game that both teams had multiple chances to win.
"They will be ready, and so will we," BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy said last Monday, before knowing Utah would be coming off a loss. "It doesn't matter what has happened before the game."
The Cougars are coming off a bye and presumably had last week to prepare for Utah. But coach Bronco Mendenhall said Monday that wasn't necessarily the plan. He said the team would focus on fundamentals and player development through Wednesday, then start preparing for the Utes on Thursday.
Players were given the weekend off, and Mendenhall wasn't even planning to watch the Utah-Oregon State game live, despite having played and coached for OSU. He said he was thinking about going camping with his family.
Having a bye before the rivalry game appears from afar to be a case of fortuitous scheduling by BYU, but Mendenhall said it wasn't by design.
"We had a number of opportunities, and man, getting the schedule exactly right and trying to find teams that would play us when they could play us with their conference schedules, etc., that is just how it worked out," he said.
There is also the question of how long the momentum and confidence BYU garnered by beating Texas will last, especially after the Longhorns were exposed again over the weekend in a 44-23 home loss to No. 25 Ole Miss. Would the Cougars have been better off playing Saturday?
"I think you could argue either way," Mendenhall said. "We have to argue [that the bye is better], to have time to heal and get ready for the rest of our season not just that particular game. But you could argue [for] momentum or rest, either one."
The Cougars received 14 poll points in The Associated Press Top 25 the day after beating Texas, which put them 32nd. However, BYU didn't receive a single vote in this week's poll after voters noticed Texas isn't worthy of being ranked.
The Cougars opened as touchdown favorites over the Utes in Las Vegas on Sunday. BYU was favored in the last two rivalry games, too, only to lose 54-10 in Provo in 2011 and 24-21 at Rice-Eccles Stadium last year.
Utah has won the last three rivalry games, and there's a sense or urgency this year because the teams aren't scheduled to play again until 2016.
Utah at BYU
P Saturday, 8:15 p.m.
TV • ESPN2