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Jay Drew
Jay covers BYU athletics for The Salt Lake Tribune. You can follow him on Twitter @drewjay.

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BYU's schedule gets easier after Georgia Tech trip

After playing at Georgia Tech on Saturday, the BYU football team will have a bye before embarking on the easiest stretch of the 2012 schedule -- a home game against Idaho on Nov. 10, followed by trips to San Jose State and then New Mexico State.

Idaho will have an interim coach, Jason Gesser, after Robb Akey was fired last weekend. Gesser has ties to Utah, having played for the Utah Blaze for three years as a backup quarterback to Joe Germaine.

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I covered the Blaze those three years, and Gesser didn't get much of an opportunity to play, but was a fun guy to be around, and very articulate.

As for Akey, coach Bronco Mendenhall called him a friend on Monday and said he was saddened and disappointed by the veteran coach's release.

"Just a couple years ago, there was a bowl game for Idaho," Mendenhall said. "Longevity for head coaches is not something that I think is recognized past two or three years. It is hard to see friends not have the success others deem necessary to keep going. But I think he's a good man and a good coach."

Mendenhall's job security isn't in question by any stretch, but one can't look at Twitter, Facebook or a BYU fan message board these days without seeing some criticism of the eight-year coach, what with the Cougars being 4-4 at this juncture. That was the topic of my offering in Wednesday morning's Tribune, along with a notebook about how the Cougars tackled poorly against Notre Dame.

A lot of the criticism of Mendenhall stems from the way he has handled the quarterback situation this season. Monday, someone asked the coach why Riley Nelson has not improved between his junior and senior seasons.

"Oh, I think injuries are certainly part of it. And our strength of schedule is part of it. But we are really close, and our program intends to keep grinding out, and there's been three, I would say four really close games, and tough losses. But I still think we are gaining momentum, and making progress, and Riley is leading us while we do it. Might not be the prolific breakthrough that people want, and the time, but I still see us inching really close to breaking through."

Mendenhall said it will be interesting to see how ranked teams BYU lost to this season -- Notre Dame, Oregon State and Boise State -- finish the year.

He also acknowledged that losing so many close games has left room for a lot of regret.

"Yeah, they hurt more, knowing that you are right there, and knowing that one, two or three plays are the difference. But we are playing good teams, and we are playing them on the road, and it is kind of the next era. When I started this job, and where it is now, expectations are even higher, schedule more demanding. We are playing better football, against better teams. And that's what is coming next, and I welcome it. But we have to also execute at an even higher level now to have maybe that hallmark we had before."

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