Coach Bronco Mendenhall speaks to the media Tuesday morning. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
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The following is a partial transcript from head football coach Bronco Mendenhall's weekly press conference, including comments from linebacker Jordan Pendleton, offensive lineman Terence Brown and wide receiver McKay Jacobson.
We are anxious to play again in another great venue. We are facing another really good coach in Mack Brown. I think he is one of the leaders in college football and he is one of the most successful coaches in college football. Our team came out of Oxford relatively healthy, I gave most of you the injury report yesterday and today begins our practice so we can get ready to go play.
Does Coach Brown and Texas know you don’t practice on Sunday and what has been their reaction to that?
I’m not positive that they know or not, normally with head coaches I don’t really make a point to say specifically, but if I am asked we certainly don’t shy away from it. We don’t give much away about our program in terms of strategy and other things involved.
Can you assess the performance of the secondary at Ole Miss?
The strength was they tackled well, I think they concentrated well in terms of play action pass. In terms of things they could improve, I think Corby Eason had both hands on a ball and I’d like to see more footballs knocked down and a few more incompletions just based on coverage. I think our coverage in general can be a little tighter than it was. In summary I was pleased with the tackling but the coverage is still a work in progress.
You had a goal of picking up at least 100 yards on the ground, which you accomplished (111), what does that say about your offensive line and are you going to stretch that goal?
Any statistic we have on the ground, not only rush defense but the amount of yards we rush for is in relation to statistics we think will help us win the game. None of the statistics ever overshadow the ability to win. Any of our statistics are to make sure we give ourselves the best chance to win. When you control the ball you can control the clock, you can control momentum and you have a great chance to win the game. Ultimately we did win the rushing battle which helped us win the time of possession and we ultimately won the game by one point so it was very close.
Can you talk about what you are expecting from the overall experience playing in Austin?
There is a lot of history and it will be a great experience for our players. I’ve been to Austin once as a player; I know BYU has been at least one time that I can remember. When you consider that in the world of who are the “haves” and “have nots” in college football in terms of the glitter and the budget, etc. you probably think of Texas and Oregon. It will be fun for our players to not only have heard of the things Texas has and their reputation and tradition but to see that and measure themselves against the players and see if those things match.
Looking back at the Ole Miss game, what did you learn about your offense and what needs to improve?
I learned they are capable. The number of drives that were put together that had some momentum maybe exceeded that of what I thought, but the number of drives that were finished were not what I thought. I thought we would finish more drives. It’s just simply the consistency and the execution. Once the volume of plays gets from around seven to 10 plays, that’s when we started to make mistakes. We just need to sustain drives longer and finish drives. That leads to more efficient execution, more repetition that just takes more time.
Texas will likely be the largest crowd BYU has ever played in front of, perhaps twice as many as at Ole Miss, how do you prepare your team for that kind of environment?
Not really any differently, just tell them that it is going to be a big crowd and enjoy it and go play the game. Besides warmups and maybe when you come of the tunnel when you notice the crowd, the rest of it there isn’t much of a difference for 60, 80 or 100,000 for players and coaches. You notice it more before the game.
Texas ran the ball effectively; do you think that’s one of the keys to the game, to stop the run?
Texas had a good plan against Texas, I think they ran it for 200 or so and threw it for 200-something, and over 500 yards of total offense. Under a new offensive coordinator that is pretty impressive. They had great balance. Not only do they run the ball between the tackles but they have a nice plan to try and run around you. Most of their big play-yardage came from going around the opponent, not through them. We have to make sure our edges are secure. A lot of their running game is similar to what we saw at Ole Miss with fly sweeps and a wildcat player back at quarterback. They just happen to be more advanced currently in play action and multiple formations.
What does this past week say about your team in terms of resiliency knowing they can come back on the road and win?
It was probably one of the most gratifying victories since I’ve been the coach. It was the largest deficit we have overcome since I have been the coach and that’s six years and one game going back to an 11-point comeback to New Mexico my first year. It as much if not more than any of the victories we have had. There wasn’t a lot of panic on the sideline even until the end and it think that will show a deeper commitment and the right kind of mindset collectively as a team that will battle to the end. A game like that one or two plays can make difference and we able to make them.
Does that change the way you frame improvement to players?
Sure, coaching is nothing other than teaching. Teaching requires teachable moments and people that want to be taught. A lot of times based on the team that you have after a win, players are actually less teachable than they are after a loss. There is always a fine balance going in that if you win how teachable will players be? When you win coming from behind in sort of the last hour of the game, that teachable moment is still there and you get the best of both worlds. You get a great victory and you know what defeat could have tasted like because you were behind most of the game. There is a sense of relief in that you are glad you won, but there is a lot we can improve on. Our focus has been telling the players great job in terms of resiliency, heart, grit and determination.
Is that the best way to start a season?
I think so. We got tested early in a close game. It’s good to get one of those out of the way. Our team never gave up even though we were down in the fourth quarter. I think that’s the largest comeback since Coach Mendenhall has been here. Its good to get a close one of the way and we know we can battle until the end.
The next test is at Texas, that’s got to be a dream?
Oh yeah I can’t wait. We are all really excited to go out there. It’s one of those teams that have been a national powerhouse in the NCAA so we are all really excited and it will be a new test for us.
Do you expect a really physical game again?
I think so. Their offensive line isn’t as big as Ole Miss but I think they are going to be quicker. It will definitely be physical. I wouldn’t have it any other way, that’s why we play this game.
How gratifying was it for the defense to win the game?
It was just awesome. We held them to field goals. We always tell ourselves if they can’t score touchdowns they can’t win the game and it held true. It was just a battle like that all game and then scoring on the defensive end at that time we needed it was awesome.
How does that carry over into preparation for Texas?
We just have to keep working. Even though we played really well and held them to 64 yards rushing we found things we can do better on and that’s our plan every week.
What sort of things did you see after watching film from last week?
There are a lot of little mistakes, mental errors here and there, bad snaps from myself. There are things we can fix definitely and we’ll do it this week. Hopefully it will show on Saturday.
Do you think the team will need to score more than 14 points to beat Texas?
I think we will have to score for sure but I think our defense will play great. They played great last week and only gave up two field goals to Ole Miss, so I expect the same effort from them. Hopefully we can put up enough points to win.
Can you describe how big Texas football is in Texas?
A lot of the big-time recruits will go to Texas. There is a lot of tradition. They have been very successful for many, many years. Texas is a great program.
You were recruited by Texas, what was that like?
Through the whole recruitment process you have different things you do. You have a junior day and different camps. I have a lot of memories down there and I am excited to head down there.
What does the team need to do to win?
We really need to do well to have a chance against them. We know they are going to be very athletic. Really we just need to match their intensity and play hard. Overall one of the things we need to fix is our tempo as an offense. We moved the ball but we need better tempo. We can go and execute more, be more aggressive. It comes down to execution and knowing our assignments.