BYU's Lark prepares for SDSU's unusual 3-3-5 defense
BYU's football team woke up to grey, cloudy skies this morning in San Diego, and a bit of rain is expected today perhaps in a couple of hours when the team is practicing again at Helix High in La Mesa. But every weather forecast I have looked at says it will be clear, dry and with no chance of rain on Thursday when the Poinsettia Bowl kicks off at Qualcomm Stadium. Let's start the day off with a couple of links to our coverage in Tuesday's Tribune. Will BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's routine of practicing only seven or eight times before bowl games while other teams are practicing 10 times or more hurt the Cougars against the Aztecs on Thursday? We explore that topic in this piece. Here's a notebook from San Diego, with my report that James Lark has been told he will be the starter on Thursday night and Mendenhall's mildly surprising statement that both Lark and Riley Nelson will likely play in the game. And be sure to check out this column by the Tribune's Kurt Kragthorpe on Nelson's career at BYU. With buses waiting to whisk them away to their team hotel and then on to SeaWorld, the Cougars were in a hurry after practice Monday, so Lark was the only player made available for an interview. Here are a few more of the quarterback's comments, stuff that didn't totally make my reports yesterday: On whether his mindset has changed in practice with the thinking that he will play more:"I am trying to keep as the same as usual. In past bowl games my mindset probably hasn't been as strong as it is now. I mean, I have to stay a lot more focused. I don't enjoy as much of the city as I did in the past, because I actually got to stay and watch as much film and prepare for the game." On playing against the 3-3-5 defense that SDSU employs:"It is nothing we can't handle, but they have a lot of moving parts, a lot of guys twisting. So we have to make sure we are focused and we target the right guys. If we target the right guys, it is just like any team and we will be able to run the football. But they are a good football team. One thing I give them a lot of credit for is that they all play hard. They are running to the ball and they are all playing as hard as they can." On having so many reps and how great that is:"I wouldn't call it heaven. It has just been a lot more meaningful. I come out here and I get to do something I love, instead of watch something I love. I love playing football. I mean, it is my last football game at BYU. It really means a lot to be out there with my guys, playing and getting better." On whether the guys are focused and Mendenhall's comment that practice was sluggish: "Yeah, a little sluggish. But that's expected. We are at a different altitude, a different city. Got a lot of distractions. But I think guys came out with their minds right, ready to play. I mean, we traveled yesterday, and had a lot of things going on. Maybe a little sluggish, but mentally we are focused and dialed in."On whether they have an advantage because BYU used to run the 3-3-5 a long time ago: "Maybe. I mean, I don't think a lot of our guys have gone against it. We've got a lot of young guys that weren't here when we ran the 3-3-5. I think coach Mendenhall, his help, whenever...has been really good for us. But other than that, it is another football team. They do a lot of things the same, but they do some different things, and we are getting ready for it. Luckily, we have had a lot of time to prepare." On what guys have benefited the most from layoff: "I think our offensive line. Those guys have been banged up all year, and this rest has been really good for them. Braden Brown, Ryker, all those guys. I think that is how it is for an offensive line at the end of a season. They all got big injuries and are banged up. But three weeks, there bodies are healed up and they are ready to go."
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