BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall at the New Mexico Bowl press conference
The following is a partial transcript of BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall's remarks at the New Mexico Bowl press conference:
What are your initial thoughts on this match-up?
"The matchup makes complete sense and I think it’s very compelling. You have two teams that are 6-6 and have got their different paths, one having a great first part of the year, the other having a great second part of the year. You have a historical matchup from the old WAC days. You have a regional matchup and you have a common opponent match up with two fans bases that are passionate about supporting their team. I think when you add all that to it being the opening game of the college bowl season, the organizers of this did a good job."
How hard it is for you, having been recruited by Coach Price, to face off in a bowl game?
"It is hard to explain. I remember I was playing junior college football and we were traveling, the only time we got to travel by airplane at Snow College. We were traveling to play Northeast Oklahoma and Tulsa and Coach Price and Coach Arslanian from Weber State were flying on the same plane. It was a charter plane and they were sitting next to my parents and I remember that like it was yesterday. That’s over 20 years ago. Coach Price has seen a lot of players since then and now to think I am coaching against Coach Price, it’s bizarre."
Is there a comfort factor to playing a bowl game in a place you are so familiar with?
"The comfort part of it comes from all the fond memories of being here but in terms of the venue, I don’t think that matters that much. UTEP played New Mexico at home here this year and we’ve been here many times so I think that part’s a wash. I’m just a little bit nostalgic today. Normally when we come in to Albuquerque it’s just to stay at the Marriott, play the game, then leave. I had a chance to actually drive around a little bit today and it’s been fun."
After a very tough loss to Utah, how motivated are you to finish the season on a high note?
"Really motivated. I think having controlled the Utah game from beginning to end and not winning is playing into it. This particular team, from about the fifth or sixth game on, started to find themselves and I think we are going to run out of time before they reach their potential. So with that clock ticking, in addition to wanting to win the last game, I think we'll end up in having a very motivated football team. That’s what I’ve seen in practice so far."
Can you talk a little bit about what you expect out of UTEP?
"I expect them to play really hard and be as motivated as we are to prove that maybe they are a better team than 6-6. I’ve had a chance to watch some of their games down the stretch and they were going in to score or at least to tie versus Tulsa. Tulsa’s a good football team. They beat SMU at home and SMU plays for their conference championship. Coach Price, you just look at his history and what he has done at UTEP, you can tell they will be well prepared and have good schemes. I’ve seen it on film so I think you’ll get good coaching in the game and two motivated teams with an intriguing matchup. I think it’s going to be a great game."
BYU travels well but with UTEP being so close, who do you expect to have more fans?
"I would hope BYU. We had sold out the Las Vegas Bowl every year until the last year we went and I’m not sure if I was a fan that I would have gone to that one since it was so cold and windy. But wherever BYU goes, the bowl seems to benefit, so I’d be very surprised if we don’t travel really well. I think the fan base has embraced this team and its resurgence. I think they’ve admired the work we’ve put in to return to postseason play and I think the support will be strong."