BYU football: Last year's loss at Notre Dame still stings for Cougars
Provo • Football coach Bronco Mendenhall claims to have a short memory when it comes to BYU games, especially those that happened in previous seasons.
But after all the blankets had been handed out on Senior Day and the overmatched Idaho State Bengals had been sent back to Pocatello with an expected 59-13 loss and a sizable paycheck, Mendenhall acknowledged losing 17-14 at No. 5 Notre Dame last year still stings.
"I don't remember many games, but I remember that one. And so I am looking forward to going back," Mendenhall said.
The rematch is Saturday (1:30 p.m. MST, NBC) in South Bend, Ind., and will pit a pair of 7-3 teams.
The Cougars came within a whisker of upsetting the undefeated Irish on Oct. 20, 2012, and keeping them from their march to the national championship game. The Cougars had a 14-7 halftime lead, but their offense sputtered in the second half and their usually stout defense could not stop Notre Dame's rushing attack when the game was on the line.
One play in particular, when senior quarterback Riley Nelson overthrew a wide-open Cody Hoffman, had the Cougars wondering what might have been.
"It has definitely stuck with us, because we easily could have won," Hoffman said Saturday. "And just seeing them in the national championship [game] and just knowing that we could have, and should have, beat them. But it is nice being able to go back this year and hopefully get revenge."
Last year, BYU was a heavy underdog. But this year the teams appear evenly matched, and Notre Dame is just a 1-point favorite. The Irish were surprised 28-21 by Pittsburgh on Nov. 9 and had a bye last weekend.
"We should have came out with a win, in my opinion," BYU linebacker Kyle Van Noy said, after playing sparingly against ISU but still recording two tackles for loss, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.
"I think that we are going to go into a game in which they are going to be healed from a bye week. They are going to be ready to go," Van Noy continued. "But I think also we are hungry, too. We are hungry for success. I think that is what is going to show in South Bend. It is going to be a good game. It is going to be competitive. It is going to be Midwest [style] football. Kind of like Wisconsin, they are going to try to run and pound. So it is going to be fun."
Almost all of BYU's main contributors this season played in that game last season, so the Cougars believe they won't be in awe of the place and will treat it more like a business trip. The notable exception to that is quarterback Taysom Hill, who suffered a season-ending knee injury against Utah State two weeks before the trip to Indiana.
"I am really excited," Hill said, after a spotty game against the Bengals in which he threw for two touchdowns and 153 yards and rushed for 62 yards, but was intercepted three times.
"Much like Wisconsin, you get a team like Notre Dame that is this known around the country for being a quality football team. It gives us an opportunity again to go on the road and showcase what we can do on a national stage."
Notre Dame's other two losses were 41-30 at Michigan and 35-21 at home to Oklahoma.
"I think [having played there last year] will help a little bit just because you are familiar with it. You know what to expect." Van Noy said. "You know what the atmosphere is like, what the environment is going to be. I think for the young guys, they are going to have to adjust to it a little bit, but hopefully we can get that out of the way and the veteran guys can lead by example and come away with a win."
BYU at Notre Dame
P Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MST
TV • Ch. 5