Good morning from Hartford, Conn., everyone. For BYU, the college football season is finally here, as the Cougars take on UConn at 5 p.m. MDT tonight at Rentschler Field, which is actually in East Hartford, Conn.
The University of Connecticut’s main campus is in Storrs, about 24 miles away. It’s about a 30-minute drive, I’ve been told.
I was also told that the area is enjoying some perfect weather for late August the past few days — cooler and less humid than average.
Skies are sunny this morning, with about 65 percent humidity and no chance of rain. Temperature at kickoff should be in the high-70s.
The Cougars have been here since Wednesday, and practiced at a local prep school in Windsor Locks before a walk-through at "the Ren," as locals call it.
Of course, BYU will not have all its starters for tonight’s game. Read more about the suspensions here.
School officials confirmed Thursday night that Robertson Daniel and Jordan Johnson will not play and did not even make the trip. That’s a shame, especially, for Johnson, who is from nearby Springfield, Mass., and would have been playing in front of tons of family and friends from the Brooks School in Springfield.
BYU players and coaches haven’t spoken to print reporters since Monday. I’m cleaning out the ol’ notebook this morning, however.
Here are some comments I haven’t used in full this week as they relate to the season-opener.
Mendenhall on how he assesses UConn:
"Hard to say. They finished on a strong note, putting a nice streak together at the end of their season. Brand new staff on both sides. What that will look like in terms of chemistry, in terms of effort, in terms of personnel, even with schemes, hard to know. So that makes me more reserved, also, in terms of predicting the opener. So certainly capable. I have seen their personnel and they are certainly capable. What the team will look like, the focus has to go more back to us, because we can control that. Not sure what we will see from them."
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae on scoring in the red zone and whether they’ve solved that problem:
"You know, we are not going to find out if we’ve solved the problem until we get a good grip on the season. Going into the first game, we are going to focus on situations, and getting first downs. When we get down there in the blue zone, we are going to focus on scoring touchdowns the best we can. And if that doesn’t happen just perfectly, we are not going to be, let me put this the right way: we are not going to thing the effort was a failure.
We are going to prepare ourselves, our players and our coaches to do our best in those areas."
Anae on minimizing mistakes in the opener on offense:
"Our kids have been working on a fearless mindset. And to do that, you gotta fill it with something. If you fill it with nothing, a fear ends up in there. So that’s what we have been working on as a program and as a team — filling it with things, tasks that we are looking forward to doing.
So that’s the mindset we are taking."
Anae on whether the offense will overcome weather, etc., something it struggled with last year:
"With the mindset we are talking about, it is focusing on the moment. Focusing on the task at hand. It is the focus on the moment. We have made a conscientious effort to grow the program in that regard."
Quarterback Taysom Hill on how much more comfortable and confident they are as an offense this year opposed to last year:
"Definitely more confident. It is hard to even think back and look at where we were last year — new offensive system, new coaching staff, all that stuff. We are ready, and very excited, as I mentioned early."
Hill on the key to executing well in the opener:
"Just controlling nerves. I would say that there is nerves first game — big environment. There will be some guys who have never played in a stadium or in front of this many people before. It is really just taking one play at a time and making sure you execute and fulfill your responsibility.
As soon as we can do that, I feel confident in our ability to move the ball."
Hill on whether guys who lost at Virginia last year feel accountable to play better this year:
"Yeah, for sure. Our opener, there was a lot of time to prepare for this game. We didn’t play as well as we could have, if you look at that game compared to some of our other games. So we know what is expected. We know what is coming. There are no excuses."
Hill on how they keep from getting too amped up:
"Live in the present. All that anxiety, getting too amped up, as you look at the outcome, you try to press to win the football game. So I live in the moment. I live to get play by play, walk through by walk through. I just take it minute by minute."
Receiver Mitch Mathews on keys to opener:
"Just starting fast. You never want to lose a first game. That is your motivator at the first of the season, because getting to the tournament, and getting to the game you want to be in, and being a top four team in the country, to start like that, it could carry your hopes the rest of the season.
So we want to be motivated, we want to start fast, and play smash mouth football from the beginning, and then go deep over the top."
Mathews on the readiness level this year compared to last year:
"I think just the level of uncertainty with how our offense is going to work is out the window. I think we had nine returning starters on offense, so at least from an offensive standpoint we know how it is going to go, we know exactly what we are going to do. We know exactly what is going to work.
We have seen this type of defense before. So it is the knowledge that we already know what we are going to go in and do to them before, when we played Virginia, it was, ‘is this offense really going to work? Are we going to wear teams down? But right now, we are sure."
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