Mendenhall: Our Team Continues to Improve

(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

HEAD COACH BRONCO MENDENHALL

Opening Comments:

By way of recap on the Wyoming game, I think that our team continues to improve and continues to display the attitude and mindset that I would like for them to play especially at home with. Our team is not perfect and can still improve, but to this point I am pleased with a convincing nature of the victories. The chance to have now three quarters of time in for our young players, our backups, which I think will eventually help us down the stretch.

As we look forward to the upcoming week, our three main objectives are to first, become healthy; second, to make sure we have a clear identity as to who we are in terms of self scout to identify what has worked well and what hasn’t worked well; then thirdly, make sure our players have a chance academically to refocus and to get up to date and up to speed as much as possible.

How has your bye week philosophy evolved over the past few years?

It really is much like our overall philosophy and that is that I’m viewing this with a different perspective. This is a 12-game season, prior to a bowl game, not including fall camp, before you go into an off-season, before you go into a spring season, before you go into a fall camp, and it’s long. I’m not saying there is not urgency to improve but the rest and the health of our team is taking a much higher priority than it once did. I think that as I am maturing and growing in perspective, these young men do care about their schoolwork, they do care about their families and they have other interest, especially faith-based service as well. So when we have a moment for them to have some kind of normalcy I think I lean a lot more towards that than I once did.

You are 4-0 so far; can you assess how close you are to your quest for perfection?

In terms of being able to play at our highest level, offensively we have to give Wyoming some credit in this last game. I think there was some edge that came off from the UCLA game to the Wyoming game on the offensive side of the ball. I think that with the experience, with the confidence, with the success that we’ve had and with them carrying some of the early load I think its possible there might be some expectation that this is easy. I saw some signs of that early in the game. Please give Wyoming some credit because they are a really good defense and they had a really nice plan. That could be one of the best things that could have happened to us, because we are successful, talented and have some confidence grown doesn’t mean that every week is going to be easy.

Defensively I think it is a little bit the opposite of that. The expectations weren’t as high from the outside. They’re methodically improving, and improving, and improving. They are anxious to do their part and contribute. Not only are they managing the points now they have added key turnovers, which I think has separated the scores the past two weeks. If you were to ask why the scores were so dominate, I think the turnovers would be what you point to. Coach Hill has emphasized that since last spring.

Special teams wise, I think you could address all four units independently. For the punting game, this was really the first time that C.J. Santiago had a chance to punt the ball not just as a pooch situation and he was very impressive. That was nice for us to assess when and if we’re possibly not having a dominant day on third downs, can he change field position, and the answer is yes. He can and can consistently, so I feel good about that. In terms of punt return, the effort up front is that we are still looking for a returner. On our kickoff return, I am very pleased with in continuation from last year. They are doing a very nice job. Kickoff coverage is sporadic with all freshmen running down, with about one on any given play not going where he is supposed to go and the returners are finding that. When you have true freshman playing and it’s not an excuse it’s a reality. We have two weeks now to improve that before we play again.

Can you talk a little bit about the Mountain West Conference’s success and having three teams in the polls?

I like our conference. I don’t think there is any surprise that TCU and Utah are playing well this year. They have demonstrated the past few years that they are capable. What I think is greatest story in the league is UNLV. I’m really happy for coach Sanford, he is a very good person and has worked hard. To see their program to have success is great. Then you can’t discount Air Force with Coach Calhoun, not only in his opening year last year but what he has done this year. I think you see those kinds of stories as the emerging stories, but I think you have to take not of what coach Fairchild is doing at Colorado State and in the areas that they are improving. I already know what I’ll don’t about coach Rocky Long at New Mexico. There will always be times when people will discount them, but unless you’ve coached with him that’s a mistake. They will fight to the end. I haven’t seen enough of San Diego State to really know.

I think the conference is moving forward, and I think our play against non-conference opponents is showing that. I can see a time when there are three teams that are worthy of national recognition, if not right now in the future. Maybe that will be the trend set for the future.

You may or not be ware that Rocky lost his quarterback at New Mexico, you’ve had the ability to have a healthy quarterback most of the time while as head coach, and can you address the challenge of losing a quarterback?

This isn’t the fault of New Mexico or any one else. You do make a choice in the style of offense that you run and I’m talking specifically about New Mexico. If you watch quarterback based systems, like West Virginia when their quarterback was hurt a year ago or the University of Oregon, if their quarterback goes down. With the offenses that are choosing the run the quarterback, there is a risk at that. With that risk usually comes wins a losses. We do everything in our system to get the ball released timely, before Max takes a hit. We understand how important it is to keep him healthy. We are very conservative in protections of quarterbacks.

JUNIOR QUARTERBACK MAX HALL

Coach Mendenhall doesn’t focus on the polls, but do you guys look at it and see where you are?

It is not something we dwell on. It is nice to see our team move up the polls and we know we need to be up there at the end of the season to have a shot at a BCS game. It is nice to move up a couple of spots. We just need to stay there.

What was it like with Michael Reed missing this week?

First of all, I thought Spencer Hafoka, Luke Ashworth, Bryce Mahuika and O’Neill Chambers all did a good job of filling in that spot, making blocks downfield and catching the ball when it came to them. You could definitely feel a missing gap with Mike being gone. He has been a solid guy for us and in his senior year he has been huge on third downs. He is just a big body receiver who we count on to make plays. I think I realized how much I miss Mike Reed this week and how much of a vital effect he has on our offense. We are going to get him healthy and get him back in a few weeks.

If you are starting slow and you are not completely satisfied with the victory, yet you are winning 44-0 what does that say for the rest of your opponents?

The type of team that we have right now, and they types of guys that we have right now make it so if we’re struggling in one area we have guys on the team who are able to pick up the slack. On Saturday that was our defense. I think those guys played great. They caused turnovers; David Nixon was name Defensive player of the Week. Bottom line is they stepped up. There have been times when I think the defense has needed the offense to step up, and we’ve done so and on Saturday it was them. We have a very good football team, and when both sides are clicking like against UCLA you see what happens.

Your offensive line hasn’t given up an official sack this season, how does the line compare this year to last year?

First of all those guys are doing a phenomenal job. There is a lot of senior leadership on the line and they are experienced and they know what is going on. Dallas Reynolds is going a very great job making his calls and keeping the D-tackles from out of the backfield. Bottom line is those guys are tearing it up.

I feel very comfortable back there, plenty of time to throw the ball and there are wide-open gaps for our running backs. Last year at this time I was still trying to figure out how to play college football, how to make calls and figure out what the defense was doing. This year, even though I do know what is going on, I think those guys take care of it for me. I don’t really have to worry about it as much. No one really got to me this year. It feels good.

Where will this offense make its biggest improvement in these next coming weeks?

Consistency, bottom line is what we have to do. We have the talent, we have the skills, we have the coaching, we have the offensive line and we have to be consistent. We just have to stay excited, we have to stay sharp and really what it comes down to is having me and our receivers and everybody on the same page every day of the week. Putting in the time and the work. If we do that and we execute like we are supposed to, we’re a very tough offense to stop. Bottom line is consistency and hard work every week, no matter whom we play.

You’ve gotten hit every once in a while, with this bye week do you have any bumps and bruise you need to overcome or is there anything that is nagging on your body?

Not really. I feel great. I’ve gotten hit every once in a while but it is nothing close to what I experienced last year. For me this week is to clear my mind, to focus, regroup and spend some time with my wife. We’re going to spend some time together and then refocus and get ready for Utah State and the rest of conference play. There are some guys on the team that are banged up. This bye week comes at a good time for them to rest up and get their bodies ready go play.