BYU football: Cougars' bowl record improving under Bronco Mendenhall
Fort Worth, Texas • As his 28th season as a member of the BYU football coaching staff inches closer to an end, there are a few myths about the program that tight ends coach Lance Reynolds would like to dispel.
One is that legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards didn't take winning bowl games seriously. The Cougars were just 7-14-1 in bowl games under Edwards, one of the few blemishes on a Hall of Fame coaching career.
"I don't just think it is a myth, I think it is way a myth," said Reynolds, who has coached in 22 bowl games, six under current coach Bronco Mendenhall, one under Gary Crowton, and 15 with Edwards at the helm.
There's no doubting, though, that BYU has played much better in bowl games under Mendenhall, who is 4-2 in the postseason affairs heading into Friday's Armed Forces Bowl against Tulsa at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas (10 a.m. MST, ESPN).
Mendenhall made winning bowl games a priority when he replaced Crowton in 2005.
"I think there are just different philosophies," Mendenhall said. "I can't really speak to the record before, because I wasn't here. But I have visited with LaVell some, and there are different approaches. Some teams, the bowl games weren't as important in terms of the national landscape, rankings, and the BCS and all that. Nor were they televised as heavily. So with the exposure to the programs now, and especially in our position, it is so important to play well in those games. Not only to get in them, but to play well."
The Cougars (9-3) will make their 30th bowl game appearance Friday and are trying to become the first team in school history to win three straight bowl games. It's the fifth opportunity to do so.
"I think the landscape has changed to where I just think it is very important [to win bowl games]," Mendenhall said. "I can't say it is more important than [what] other coaches emphasize, but I think it is very important to play well in the postseason in terms of how your program is viewed, and also in gaining momentum in trying to secure spots going into the following year for rankings and for possible bowl appearances, etc.
"So I think there's maybe more at stake now," he continued. "Again, hard to say because I wasn't in the era before."
Mendenhall has taken some criticism for not practicing as much as possible and not using pre-bowl practice sessions to develop the younger players. But he swears by the bowl model he developed after losing 35-28 to California in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl, his first.
"I am very confident [it works]," he said. "It has helped us win five of our last six bowl games."
Reynolds, who was a strong candidate to get the head coaching job when Mendenhall got it, said there are several reasons BYU has improved its bowl game record.
Those include the indoor practice facility, a 106,000-square-foot building that is 93 feet high inside and opened in 2004, the quality of competition, and Mendenhall's focus and routine.
"Don't forget that we played some darn good teams back then," Reynolds said. "I think people for some reason think that we didn't take it serious. If you watch the way LaVell just had that persona about him, you could have said that about any game. Right? So I don't think he was any different for the bowl game than he was at any other time during the year."
Overall, BYU's bowl record is 11-17-1, with the tie coming against Iowa 13-13 in the 1991 Holiday Bowl.
"I think the thing we are doing a nice job of now is obviously [taking advantage of] the facility, the workout routine, and coach Mendenhall does a nice job of keeping focused in on the objective," Reynolds said. "He reminds them daily."
BYU in bowls under Mendenhall
Bowl Year Result
New Mexico Bowl 2010 BYU 52, UTEP 24
Las Vegas Bowl 2009 BYU 44, Oregon State 20
Las Vegas Bowl 2008 Arizona 31, BYU 21
Las Vegas Bowl 2007 BYU 17, UCLA 16
Las Vegas Bowl 2006 BYU 38, Oregon 8
Las Vegas Bowl 2005 Cal 35, BYU 28