A win is a win.
That was pretty much the BYU Cougars’ sentiments after today’s 28-23 win over Nevada in front of 21,540 fans at Mackay Stadium.
Kyle Van Noy said the scene in the locker room at halftime “wasn’t pretty,” but he could have been talking about the overall game. The Cougars escaped despite not scoring in the first half, committing 14 penalties for 142 yards and not throwing for 100 yards.
“Man, hard-fought game. Exhausting and draining and at the end of the season, coming off the Notre Dame loss, rebounding from that, battling through Thanksgiving, and the slow start, especially offensively,” said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall in his opening statement to the media after the game.
“And then the team having to choose and battle and respond to win the game, which is what they did in the second half.
And I am proud of them for that. Completely different team [in second half], not only in terms of emotion and effort, but execution. We made a ton of mistakes today in penalties, I don’t know how many there were, but it seems like when we made them, they were in critical situations and so besides playing the game, our lack of playing clean made it harder to win. So it was hard to gain momentum and separate, so the game went right down to the end.
However, Taysom [Hill] especially, and Jamaal [Williams] running the football physically, I thought both those two, were the difference in the game.”
Here’s more from Mendenhall’s postgame address:
On the mood in locker room at half-time:
“I didn’t really assess the mood. I kind of maybe I was as mad as I have been as the coach at BYU. I didn’t like the way they were playing. I didn’t like their lack of, maybe just expecting it to happen. And it was a great lesson, because no on ever gives you anything in this life, nor in the season, You have to earn. it.
And the leadership of the team then took that message. That was really the difference. I just presented it they took it over, and we played better.”
On whether it was a big relief to pull one out when they didn’t play well:
“Oh sure. There are all kinds of different challenges during a season. When you put as much into what we thought was going to happen at Notre Dame, and came up short. Then you add that with school finishing, and then Thanksgiving, …. Please don’t present these as excuses. This is just part of this week’s challenge.
And it showed. It showed the first half especially offensively. We also knew that Nevada was pretty skilled on offense, and that was about what they were.
The defense had struggled, so that was the biggest surprise, that we weren’t moving the ball as well. However, after all that, the second half we actually chose to play, and try the way I know they are capable of, and that’s what I have taken away from it, and I am taking it as a success.
Eight wins are hard to get. I don’t care who you are playing or what situation. They did a nice job.”
On whether he had to raise his voice at halftime:
“Yes, I did. I know that might be hard for anyone to believe. But what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room. I try to be fairly calm, as you all know, on the sidelines, and in these settings. But that wasn’t a moment. I was furious.”
On whether the penalties got into their heads:
“Yeah, it did get into their heads, and what bothers me is that not only sideline, but others then wanted to use that as a reason why we weren’t having success. We are responsible for the penalties, and rather than feel like they were imposed on us, I felt like we were reactionary to the penalties, rather than just playing harder and cleaner. So we made it hard on ourselves.”
On the offensive line taking over in the second half:
“Right at the end of the first half, we knew that was the direction we were going to have to go, and so the combination of running the football with Jamaal and Tasyom, and then the quick [throw] game, and moving the chains that way, that was the difference. That approach helped us.”
On the big stops by the defense in the first half when the offense was struggling:
“After the dropped punt, that was a huge stop. The interception in the end zone, that was a huge stop. The two-point play by Kyle, that was a huge stop.
And again, defensively, kinda regardless of who we play, it is about 21 points. Very few people can score more than 24. That’s just the next thing. I think they are pretty consistent. Not dominant, but good.”
On Kyle Van Noy struggling until making the interception in the end zone on the two-point conversion try:
“I don’t think anyone can imagine the attention and exposure and pressure on him. I am trying to downplay it as much as possible. Teams do a nice job of accounting for him, and the visibility just keeps increasing. And so I am trying to support every way possible so he can just be a college football player and just play. But he’s earned that because he is a really good player and his career has shown that.
But he wanted to win this game really badly. I don’t know how he played. I haven’t watched the film yet, but I know he wanted to win.”
On losing Robertson Daniel to an injury and the depleted secondary:
“Just tried to do everything possible to help when we could. Sometimes pressure, sometimes max coverage. Sometimes in between. Really, I thought they covered OK. The pass interference calls, or the holding downfield, those actually hurt us more than the completions did, when they came.
And Mike Hague was hurt and had to take a shot for his foot at halftime. I don’t think he was even feeling his foot. But it was the end of the season, and those two kids helped us win the game, and I am proud of them for that.”
On Eathyn Manumaleuna’s injury:
“I don’t know. I know he went out early.”
On Skye PoVey’s injury:
“He hurt his foot in Thursday’s practice. So that was another corner possibility that was gone.”
On Jamaal Williams’ 66-yard TD run:
“Huge, huge, huge. It showed instant credibility and change from the message that was [delivered] at halftime. So that was giant. And then they did a nice job answering.”
On what happens next for the team:
“Team meeting Monday, and then we start lifting and conditioning every other day, up until the 18th or 19th, which is when we start our bowl practices. I know you guys will miss me.”
On the bowl game preference, with Washington, Washington State and perhaps Arizona the candidates from the Pac-12:
“All would be good. I like the sound of all of them. I don’t have a preference. Right now we got to get our team healed up, get as many guys healthy as we can. The unique challenge coming up as well is we got finals coming up.
It comes during the bowl preparation. I care a lot about their schoolwork. So it is the next challenge. And it is over Christmas, so those things we will manage. But I am looking forward to one of those three. I think they will be good [opponents].”