PROVO — The BYU football team reaches the midway point of the 2013 season on Saturday, with the Cougars' riding high on optimism and feeling like they've got a little bit more figured out.
A 2-0 win streak — the first of the year — will do that to anyone. But so, too, will finally being able to look at game film and fix the chinks in the armor that BYU's offense developed over the first few games.
"We really went back, saw where we were successful in previous games, and we stuck with those things," sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill said on Tuesday. "We built off the good, and threw out the ones we weren't successful with."
With the 2013-14 BYU basketball team a little more than two weeks away from suiting up for the first time (the intra-squad Cougar Tipoff is Oct. 23), head coach Dave Rose says he and his staff are dealing with an unfamiliar challenge.
"It's the first time in a long time that I have more new players (than returning players)," Rose said during his annual Media Day address on Tuesday in Provo. "That is going to take a lot of patience on our part."
"We rely on those experienced guys to help bring those (new) guys along, and now we're looking at six or seven (newcomers)."
BYU has announced three new football scheduling agreements, including a deal with Stanford that will start in 2020 and conclude in 2025.
The dates of the Stanford series include two games on Thanksgiving weekend at Stanford Stadium: Nov. 28, 2020, and Nov. 26, 2022. The Cardinal are slated to visit LaVell Edwards Stadium on Sept. 2, 2023, and Sept. 13, 2025.
BYU will also renew its rivalry with University of Hawai'i; the schools will meet twice, with games scheduled for Nov. 25, 2017, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu and Nov. 17, 2018, at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo.
Above .500 for the first time in the 2013 campaign, the BYU Cougars are preparing to host a Homecoming tilt with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
It was almost a year ago in Atlanta that BYU defeated the Jackets 41-17--a game that also happens to mark the last time BYU scored in all four quarters of a game.
The performance was less notable for the Cougars' offensive output than it was BYU's defensive lock-down on a Tech attack that was among the most prolific in college football last season--particularly on the ground, with a run game that ended the season ranked fourth nationally in yards per game.
PROVO — Going into a hostile environment to play a Utah State team that leads the Mountain West Conference in several areas and has a 2-2 record on the season can be a challenge. But BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall likes his team's chances to get a win in such a scenario as the Cougars take on the Aggies on Friday night at 6 p.m.
Much of that confidence likely stems from BYU's recent 37-10 home win over Middle Tennessee.
"It's always good to have a win and see coaches smile, and players happy," Mendenhall said Wednesday night on "BYU Football with Bronco Mendenhall." "They've worked hard enough to earn that. I see glimpses of something stronger; I like what I see."
PROVO — As the Cougars and Aggies continue to prepare for Friday night's showdown at Romney Stadium, the Cougar defense looks forward to the challenge of containing Chuckie Keeton.
"He's a good quarterback, he's elusive, and he can make plays," said BYU safety Craig Bills. "It's exciting anytime that you're going against a quarterback or a player that makes plays. It's a good opportunity to show what you can do. We just need to play assignment sound and we'll be able to contain him and do other things with our defense."
The Cougars have had success against Keeton the last two years by holding him to 35 of 63 passing for two touchdowns, with an average of 162 yards passing a game. The Cougar defense has also held him to 16 rushes for 45 yards, an average of 2.8 yards a carry.
PROVO — For the second straight game, the BYU Cougars are preparing for an opponent on a short week. BYU will however have its full compliment of offensive players when they take the field on Friday in Logan.
Running back Jamaal Williams (concussion) and receiver Cody Hoffman (suspension) will return to a Cougar lineup that has struggled with consistency over the first four games of the season. However, having both players available will no doubt bolster an offense that seemed to find a good rhythm last week against Middle Tennessee. Offensive coordinator Robert Anae said that it will be 'huge' to have both players back.
"Both of them are proven play-makers...Jamaal has carried the ball a lot of times and Cody has caught the ball a lot of times; we look forward to that addition back into the offense."
LOGAN — BYU and Utah State will resume their football rivalry on Friday night in Logan. BYU has won five of the last six matchup with the Aggies under head coach Bronco Mendenhall, with the lone loss coming in Logan in 2010.
Here's a look at what the Aggies are saying about the clash with the Cougars:
Head Coach Matt Wells on BYU ...
Having won 12 of the last 13 meetings with their Cache Valley counterparts, the BYU Cougars visit Utah State on Friday night. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall calls the contest "a great instate matchup...it should be an exciting game."
Asked to contrast the game with BYU's other historical instate rivalry, Mendenhall on Monday said "it's a different kind of rivalry" than the one with the Utah Utes.
"I'm not saying it's better or worse," Mendenhall noted after his team's late afternoon practice, "but it's just different, and I think it should be. Different teams, a little bit more distance, but still I think (it's) a great game, and it has been the past number of years--it has gone right down to the end."
PROVO — Losing to your rival is not easy, especially when it happens four years in a row. After BYU suffered yet another close defeat to the University of Utah last week, head coach Bronco Mendenhall said the team was extremely disappointed but anxious to get back to work and improve.
"It was a difficult loss. A lot of emotion went into the game, and lot of emotion came out of the game," said Mendenhall. "The best way to rebound and show resiliency is to get right back to work. I was thankful for a shorter week just to get back to improving our team and helping it reach its potential."
The players dedicated this week of practice to getting back on track before the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee State ride into Provo Friday night.
PROVO — Coming off a bitter loss to rival Utah, the Cougars are using the short week to prepare for an upset-minded Middle Tennessee State team. The Blue Raiders come into Provo Friday night with a 3-1 record and they have the Cougars full attention.
"They look like a tough team. They look like they're going to give us a good run for the money, but if we go out there and do what we need to do, we're going to have a lot of fun" said BYU running back Adam Hine.
As BYU prepares for Friday night's home meeting with Middle Tennessee, the Cougars are pulling up the rear in the national passing stats--unfamiliar territory for a program credited with helping to introduce high-octane aerials to the modern college game.
Offensive coordinator Robert Anae, who as a lineman blocking for some of the school's most prolific quarterbacks in the 1980s, is acutely aware of the struggles and the stats, and acknowledges that ranking 123rd of 123 FBS teams in pass efficiency is "kind of a sign of the stage of where we're at right now."
"The pass game has not been effective," said Anae after Tuesday's practice, "and the run game has been spotty as well. It has got to be tightened down on all levels."
Since surgery to remove a cancer from his pancreas more than four years ago, BYU head basketball coach Dave Rose has returned to the Huntsman Cancer Hospital in Salt Lake City every six months, for routine diagnostic scans. "It's an interesting way to live," Rose says of the regular visits.
After years of clean reports, his most recent scan revealed cancer 'spots.' The decision was made to perform surgery to remove the cancerous tissue.
Two weeks ago Monday, Rose underwent the procedure, followed by days of recovery in the hospital. On Sunday, Sept. 15, Rose returned to his Provo home. Today, he is well into the recovery process and on track to lead his team when practice begins on October 7th.
Acknowledging that his team was "disappointed" and "saddened" by Saturday's 20-13 home loss to Utah, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall on Monday said a short week before the Cougars' next game would be "the best medicine" for his team.
Mendenhall said Friday night's home meeting with Middle Tennessee "forced (his players) to get right back to work."
"I was impressed with their practice habits today," Mendenhall told media members Monday evening, "and their resiliency and looking forward to getting back to work. That's the temperament and the mood I saw today."
PROVO — BYU announced on Thursday that the NCAA has approved a waiver request by the Cougars on behalf of Notre Dame transfer Chris Badger to allow the defensive back to play this season.
The approval makes the redshirt freshman eligible for competition immediately.
A native of Provo, Utah, Badger prepped at Timpview High School. After finishing his high school career in 2009, he enrolled mid-year at Notre Dame before serving an LDS mission during the 2010-2011 seasons. He returned to Notre Dame for the 2012 season where he completed his redshirt year.
PROVO — BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall knows what it takes to beat Utah in the team's annual rivalry meeting.
For three straight years, though, that victory has eluded him. Moreover, his attempted to squelch the flames of over-enthusiasm by approaching the battle of in-state foes as ‘just another game.'
With time running out for some of his most talented recruits to finish their BYU careers with a win, Mendenhall is trying something different.
BYU will enter Saturday's game with Utah missing one of its most important defensive players.
Senior linebacker Spencer Hadley has been suspended for five games, as the result of an honor code violation.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall announced an indefinite suspension in an afternoon press release, citing a violation of team rules; school spokesperson Carri Jenkins later released a statement, in which the five-game term was attached to Hadley's suspension.
The BYU football team was back on the outdoor practice fields Monday afternoon, but if a bye week freshened the team ahead of its meeting with Utah, head coach Bronco Mendenhall had a hard time seeing it.
"If I were to say from what I saw today," said Mendenhall, "it's been the other way. It looks like our players were sluggish and kind of bored; it's like 'when are we going to play the game already?'... and we're not prepared to play it yet."
"If I had to do it again, just after experiencing (the bye week), I would have rather had the (Utah) game come right after Texas...after going through it, it seems like a month since we played."
PROVO — Brigham Young University and the University of Utah announced on Monday that the two schools have agreed to a home-and-home football series to be played in 2017 and 2018.
The game in 2017 will be played on Sept. 9 in Provo, while the game in Salt lake City is scheduled for Nov. 24, 2018.
"As many people are aware we have been working on these two games for awhile," said BYU AD Tom Holmoe in the official release. "It's an important historical series for the state and the fans of both schools. It's nice to have it completed."
With the BYU Cougars off until their home game with Utah on Sept. 21, here, in no particular order, are a few football facts to tide you over during the bye week.
Those who follow me on Twitter (@gregwrubell) have seen some or most of these posted on my feed in recent days.
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