Reno, Nev. • If ever there was a late-season football game for the BYU Cougars with the possibility of a letdown written all over it, this is the one.
The Cougars (7-4), who are coming off last week’s disappointing 23-13 loss at Notre Dame and potentially distracted by the Thanksgiving break, face Nevada at 1 p.m. Saturday at Mackay Stadium.
The Wolf Pack (4-7) are wrapping up what has been a disappointing season for them, but they have had two weeks to prepare for BYU since blowing out San Jose State 38-16 at Mackay on Nov. 16. That was the day the Cougars were bidding farewell to 22 seniors at LaVell Edwards Stadium. In other words, not much is on the line for either team. Then again, it means an awful lot to BYU senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who grew up in Reno and will have plenty of friends and family members in the stands to watch him play his final regular-season game.
“For me, the emotion of last game was pretty draining,” Van Noy said during coach Bronco Mendenhall’s radio show Wednesday night. “To build up the emotional factor all week again, it has been difficult. But I think the guys are over the loss, and we are on to Nevada and winning that game.”
Mendenhall said the fact that the Cougars lost to Nevada and star quarterback Colin Kaepernick 27-13 in 2010 at home is reason enough for BYU to zero in on the regular-season finale.
“I am now looking forward to gaining momentum and seeing how well our team can play and how much improvement our team can make in a short amount of time,” Mendenhall said. “We have two games left, and I am [eager] to play really well this week and continue to make it a favorable experience for our seniors and do whatever we can to make that happen.”
It will be the last regular-season game for not only Van Noy, but also for all-time leading receiver Cody Hoffman, inside receiver JD Falslev, receiver Skyler Ridley, tight end Kaneakua Friel, nose tackle Eathyn Manumaleuna, linebacker Uani ’Unga, cornerback Mike Hague, safety Daniel Sorensen and kicker Justin Sorensen.
That alone should provide motivation, Hoffman said.
“We know that this is their senior day, their last game since they are not going to a bowl game, and they are going to come out with no [reservations],” Hoffman said. “We’re going to have to practice hard, give it our all, and not take it easy on these guys.”
Nevada is explosive on offense, and the Cougars said this week that a shootout could break out if they are not careful, much like the Houston game.
Nevada’s Cody Fajardo is the type of mobile, dual-threat quarterback who has given BYU trouble in the past.
“Their offense is very, very similar to ours,” Mendenhall said. “The styles and the mobile quarterback, the running game, some big receivers out on the outside. So it will be a pretty unique matchup. ... Really, as you watch the film, there’s probably 80 percent of Nevada’s offense that’s not only the same, but identical to what we do. I think it’s going to be quite a challenge.”
Quarterback Taysom Hill said Nevada’s defense has given up a lot of yards and points this season, but it has some playmakers who can wreak havoc on unprepared offenses, especially its defensive ends.
“We expect them to come out and play really hard,” Hill said.
Hill, a sophomore who became the first BYU player to rush for more than 1,000 yards and pass for more than 2,000 in a season, said the Cougars have focused on offensive execution in the red zone this week after failures in scoring territory cost them a chance to knock off Notre Dame.
BYU at Nevada
O At Mackay Stadium, Reno, Nev.
Kickoff • Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV • CBS College Sports. Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 7-4, Nevada 4-7
Series history • BYU leads 4-2-2
Last meeting • Nevada 27, BYU 13 in 2010
About the Wolf Pack • They had a bye last week and haven’t played since a 38-16 win over San Jose State on Nov. 16 at home. ... Offensive lineman Fred Lavulo, a senior, played high school football at Cottonwood. ... QB Cody Fajardo has completed 67 percent of his passes for 2,374 yards and 12 touchdowns and has rushed 128 times for 602 yards and seven TDs.
About the Cougars • Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who is from Reno, is No. 4 nationally among active players with 26 career sacks. ... QB Taysom Hill is the first BYU player and 23rd player in NCAA history to rush for more than 1,000 yards (1,057) and pass for more than 2,000 (2,547) in a season.