BYU practice report: Both teams hungry for win, Bronco says
Either the inversion in Utah County isn't as bad as it is up north, or BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall is so focused on the Cougars' appearance in the Armed Forces Bowl next week that he hasn't noticed the gunky stuff in the air along the Wasatch Front. Asked after practice on Tuesday if the smog was causing any conditioning or breathing problems for the Cougars this week, Mendenhall gave the reporter a quizzical look. "I am not even aware of it. Just naive by me, I guess," he said The Cougars held their second practice Tuesday morning, a 20-session exercise that included more contact than Monday's first practice. "It was good. More contact today, and we will alternate the contact and noncontact days, but I am impressed. I think there are a couple of elements as you go into bowl season, not only how you played in the season, but sometimes which is the more motivated and hungrier team?" Mendenhall said. "In this case, I think both teams will be excited to play. That has to be manifest in preparation, otherwise you just can't turn it on on game day. So practice is more key." While on the topic of bowl-game motivation, I asked Mendenhall if coaches are "selling" the prospects of reaching 10 wins to the team. "Not necessarily," he said. "Ten wins is important, because not many teams get to 10 wins. I think it will be five of our last six years, 10 or more [wins]. That reflects consistency, stability. But I really would just like us to reach our potential, and we are getting closer and closer, and this is one more game to be able to do that. That's really how I presented most of the season to our team. It matters to me more that the seniors finish on a positive note than 10 wins, if I were to prioritize it." A few more comments from Mendenhall after practice today: On how much evaluation is done between the last game and the bowl game:"It depends on the season. This year we had two bye weeks. And so after the first one, we completed our entire self-scout during the bye week. We touched it up the second bye week. We just kept it current. So really the self-evaluation was complete twice before going into this one, so it wasn't as much work as it was in the past." On kicker Justin Sorensen's disappointing season and how they can help him:"A lot of it, the consistency can be addressed by the practice model. This year I don't think I did nearly as good a job as in the past of [providing] practice opportunities once the season started. And so I think that I haven't handled that as well to give him his best chance to reach his potential this season, in looking back at it. I have talked with coach [Nick] Howell, our special teams coach, and we have to look at our model a little bit stronger to build more consistency into that particular position." On Tulsa's defense: "Tulsa's defense is very solid and improving. Brent Guy, when he was at Utah State, always played us well defensively, and has experience with our system. And so there will be familiarity there. And I think they are gaining some momentum the way they are playing, from what I have seen. Fairly talented up front. Probably their skill players, their speed and athleticism, is what stand out more. So maybe size. I think if you had to describe them, maybe speed-oriented would be a little bit more relevant term." On receiver McKay Jacobson's career: "There are three specific things that stand out to me about McKay: He was the first major, kind of big-name recruit [I landed]. I remember taking his commitment when I was at the Fiesta Frolic, which is a coaches event. He called, and he was highly sought-after, and that was I think my first or second year. I remember talking to him about what was possible here, and the number of wins, and it has really worked out I think pretty well. So I feel good about being able to be good on my promise to him, and I also appreciate his trust to come here when the program was kind of coming off a rocky stretch. I remember his punt return against Wyoming for a touchdown. I think that was his freshman, or redshirt freshman, year. And then I would just say the steadiness of who he is. Pretty fitting that he gets to finish in Texas for his last game. I think he has had a good experience. The Oklahoma game it is hard to remember so many particular plays, etc. When I think of players, I don't think of plays as much as just who they are. So again, that's more of what I refer to."