Cougars travel to UConn for season opener

(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah—BYU football launches the 2014 season at UConn Friday, kicking off at 7:02 p.m. EDT at Rentschler Field.

Fans can tune in for live coverage on ESPN and the Cougar IMG Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which can be found on Sirius XM 143, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and BYUcougars.com. The game is also available on WatchESPN. Radio coverage will begin at 5 p.m. EDT.

BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage, with Countdown to Kickoff starting at 6 p.m. EDT. Postgame coverage runs for half an hour after the game.

BYU (0-0) at UConn (0-0)
Friday, Aug. 29, 2014 at 7:02 p.m. EDT
Rentschler Field
East Hartford, Conn.

BYU Weekly Game Notes

UConn Weekly Game Notes

Game Info

Series

BYU and UConn kick off for the first time in football Friday night.

The Cougars are a combined 16-2 against American Athletic Conference opponents. In BYU’s last meeting with an AAC opponent, the blue Cougars took down Houston 47-46 on the road in 2013. BYU has three AAC opponents on the schedule this season--UConn, Houston and UCF.

Team

Bronco Mendenhall begins his 10th season as head coach of the Cougars with the season opener at UConn. Mendenhall has an 82-34 record entering his 10th year. BYU ranks 12th in total wins during his tenure.

Offense

At the end of the 2013 season, quarterback Taysom Hill ranked No. 10 in the country with an average of 329.4 yards per game of total offense. Hill earned the No. 1 all-time spot among BYU quarterbacks with 1,680 career rushing yards. Then a sophomore, he also ranked No. 19 in the FBS in rushing yards with 1,344 on the year. Hill is one of eight quarterbacks in NCAA history to throw for 400+ yards and run for 100+ yards in the same game. In the win at Houston, he tallied 417 yards through the air and 128 on the ground.

Last season Hill had 1,211 rushing yards and 2,645 passing yards, the first BYU player and 23rd in the NCAA to have 1,000 rushing yards and 2,000 passing yards in a season. Running back Jamaal Williams had 1,202 rushing yards. It was the first time in BYU history two players had rushed for 1,000 yards in the same season.

Hill enters his junior season as one of the nation’s unique talents. Hill is a candidate for many national awards, including the Davey O’Brien Award, and has been named to 2014 Heisman Trophy candidate lists.

BYU ranked No. 10 in the nation in rushing offense with 274.6 yards per game earned on the ground last season.

BYU also ranked No. 14 in total offensewith 495.3 yards per game in 2013.

The Cougars welcome a talented crew of wide receivers this season, including lettermen Mitch Mathews, Kurt Henderson, Terenn Houk and Ross Apo. Newcomers to the “Bomb Squad” include Jordan Leslie, Nick Kurtz, Devon Blackmon and Trey Dye.

Defense

In the backfield, BYU returns veterans Craig Bills, Robertson Daniel and Jordan Johnson, who returns to action after sitting out last season with a knee injury. Bills leads returning Cougars with 78 tackles last season. Daniel contributed 66 tackles, nine pass breakups and two interceptions in 2013.

At linebacker, senior Alani Fua returns after contributing 63 tackles, 10 pass breakups and two interceptions last season. Junior Bronson Kaufusi joins the linebacker corps for 2014 after playing defensive end during his first two seasons at BYU. He had 37 tackles, seven tackles for loss and four sacks in 2013.

Quotes

Head coach Bronco Mendenhall:

On naming team captains: "Paul (Lasike) has made a really rapid ascent in our program from not knowing the rules to being named a captain. Remington (Peck) is a product of a program, has tried really hard. Craig (Bills) and Taysom (Hill) I don't think surprised anyone. We also have special teams captains in place as well as leadership council members."

On losing the season opener last year: "I think any loss has more value than a win. The lessons hurt and they're applied faster. It is always difficult to tell where you are in the season opener. I was shocked we didn't score a bunch of points in our opener last year based on how our offense was moving agianst our defense in practice. I'm more cautious if anything and maybe less accepting of exactly what I see and trying to predict what it will look like. In the opener, there's always uncertainty."

What have you seen from UConn? "They finished on a strong note, putting a nice streak together at the end of the season. They have a brand new staff on both sides of the ball. What that will look like in terms of chemistry, effort, what they do with personnel, even with schemes, it's hard to know. That also makes me more reserved in terms of predicting the opener. I have seen their personnel and they are certinaly capable. What the team will look like, I think the focus has to go back more to us because we can control that. I am not sure what we will see from them."

How well do you know Coach Diaco? "I don't, I've never met him, I just know him by reputation. I think he has done a really good job at Notre Dame with their defense. It was fun watching them, we studied some of their film. They were not identical to us, but they were a 3-4 team and I think they played well."

Junior defensive end and team captain Remington Peck:

On being named a team captain: "I am not a person that is going to go out and scream and yell, so I will just try to do it by example and work hard everyday, help the guys as I can. It really is an honor and I am excited to be a captain."

On leaving for UConn a day early: "It's going to be different because we've never left on a Wednesday. I am excited to get to a game. I feel like fall camp has been going for three months. I am just excited to play."

On season opener: "I think it is (a chance to make a statement).  The first game kind of shows what you are going to do for the year. The past few years we haven't gone out and done that, especially last year. We felt like we lost one we should not have lost. We're excited to change that around this year."

Senior receiver Ross Apo:

Do you like going all over the country to play? "I don't think we really mind where we play, that's not under our control. I think it is fun to travel. It has been fun getting to see new stadiums."

What have you seen on UConn's defense? "Their DB's are pretty fast and we'll see a lot of man. Hopefully we do get a lot of blue zone opportunities to throw the ball up. Their safety is pretty good, but I think he's the only one taller than six feet. I think anytime we get in the blue zone, we should just be able to throw the ball up to one of our receivers."

With all the attention with the new receivers coming in, do you ever feel like you get left out? "I think the more receivers we have is better. We are going to cycle guys through. Guys that you've never heard of are going to play because we go so fast. I don't think anybody should feel like that in this offense because you'll get your time and you'll get to play."

What are you goals for your senior season? "My main goal is to keep a healthy body. I've been banged up for a while now. My body actually feels better. My main goal is to stay healthy and help the team as much as I can."