BYU heads to Florida for UCF matchup
PROVO, Utah – BYU football hits the road again, taking on UCF in Orlando Thursday at 7:30 p.m. EDT.
Kickoff is slated for 7:32 EDT in BYU's fourth straight ESPN appearance. Fans can also tune in for live coverage on the Cougar IMG Sports Network with Greg Wrubell, which can be found on Sirius XM 143, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM and BYUcougars.com. IMG's radio coverage will begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT.
BYUtv will provide pregame and postgame coverage, with Countdown to Kickoff starting at 6:30 p.m. EDT. Postgame coverage begins after the end of the game.
BYU (4-1) at UCF (2-2, 1-0 AAC)
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014 at 7:30 p.m. EDT
Bright House Networks Stadium
Last meeting. BYU’s only meeting with UCF was in 2011, when the Cougars beat the Knights 24-17 in Provo Sept. 23. Receiver Cody Hoffman returned a kickoff for a touchdown to tie the game 17-17 in the third quarter. A muffed punt recovered by Michael Alisa set up the Cougars for the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
BYU vs. AAC. BYU is 18-2 against American Athletic Conference foes after defeating UConn 35-10 on the road and Houston 33-25 at home earlier this season.
First meeting in Orlando. BYU flies to Orlando for its first road meeting against the Knights Thursday.
On the road. BYU football has already traveled more than 7,000 miles this season. The trip to Orlando will add about 3,800 miles to the season total.
10 seasons. Bronco Mendenhall is now in his 10th season as head coach of the Cougars. Mendenhall has an 86-35 record, and BYU ranks 12th in total wins nationally during his tenure.
Beating the best. Since 2003, BYU has 17 wins against Power 5 schools, which ranks second among non-Power 5 schools behind fellow independent Navy. BYU has the longest streak, with nine straight seasons with a P5 win.
The Bomb Squad. Receivers Jordan Leslie and Mitch Mathews both had 100-yard games against Utah State, with Mathews collecting a personal-best 117 yards (for 251 yards on the season) and Leslie tallying 135 yards (for 362 on the season).
New faces. Senior quarterback Christian Stewart will make his first start as a Cougar Thursday, taking over for starting quarterback Taysom Hill, who suffered a season-ending leg fracture against Utah State.
4 weeks in the spotlight. BYU’s game Thursday is its fourth-straight appearance on ESPN.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall
Not quite finished teaching on a short week with as much practice as we needed to get done, I was allotted a 10-minute team meeting that went for about a half-hour and that didn't even come close to saying what I wanted to say. So we'll squeeze in as much as possible before we play Thursday. But there is urgency with the players. There is urgency with the coach. And they're motivated, which is difficult to teach without someone who wants to be taught. From what I saw today, they want to be taught, which is good.
Summary of what you said to the team and what biggest problems were:
I'm not sure that I'll share what I summarized. In terms of what problems there are, there's certain things we certainly can work on. There was a stretch at the end of the second quarter we made three or four critical mistakes–or three or four mistakes in a short amount of time with an offsides on a field goal attempt–a long field goal, and then a fumble and then an immediate score and then actually one more score. So there was this period of time there that I think we lost our concentration, didn't play good pass defense, but basically just didn't maintain our focus. And then that entire stretch within that stretch Taysom got hurt. So that four and half minutes–five minutes before halftime. I thought the players responded well in the second half. But there was a resiliency factor with turnovers, with short fields, with concentration but in basically just discipline. They could have handled it a little bit better.
Will you be spending more time with the defense?
Not much more. My intent is to continue to mentor, continue to advise, continue to support both Robert and Nick as best I can. And then be a resource where I'm needed and when I'm needed. I like what they're both doing. They're trying really hard. Especially now with Taysom being out, I have been spending most of my time with--well, I've been spending all my time with the offense. With Taysom being gone, to say that that influence isn't needed–I still think there's value there. But I still want to be there for Nick as well. I think that's just the role of a head coach right now.
On level of dependence on Hill:
I think there was a level of confidence, I wouldn't say dependence. Confidence meaning whatever the situation Taysom's in, he'll pull it down, make two guys miss and do a hurdle and run for whatever. He'll scramble his way to a first down. He'll put his head down to get us a first down, so there's always just a confidence that we'll never be out of the game. What happens now is that the team simply has to execute at a higher level. Taysom is gone. One player does not make a team, even though Taysom is a fantastic player, but the execution of all positions within their assignment, within their technique–that has to improve right now.
On Taysom's injury:
I don't know the exactness of it, other than it was two hours worth of surgery, one plate, eight screws, every [medial] ligament shredded–so significant. They knew it was bad, but when they got in it was worse.
On pass rush:
I'd love to see more pressure on the quarterback. I'd love to see him throwing it without a bunch of time.
He tries really hard, which is exactly what we knew he would. He knows the offense well. He looked confident. Like many quarterbacks in that situation, he pressed. Trying to do a little bit too much. I actually took it as a positive thing because he was aggressive.
On opportunity at UCF:
It's a killer opportunity. I'm kind of invigorated by it actually. I like the challenge.
Physical, tough, athletic and really well-coached. Schematically and program-wise, you already know they are successful. They can be successful based on last season, they had a phenomenal quarterback. When you look at just how they're coached, the athletes they have, they're a good program. I like the matchup.
Senior QB Christian Stewart
I looked at the film and what came to my mind was the best quarterbacks take what the defense gives them. I was trying to force things. Being a little bit inexperienced going in there, I was trying to force the ball downfield instead of taking the underneath routes, take what they were giving me. I learned a lot about things that I can do going forward just with what the defense is giving me and looking at my keys, making the throws I need to make.
I was trying to force the ball down the field. I mean, we were down 15 at one point, even almost 21 points, so I wanted to make the big play for my team when in reality all we needed were drives to build momentum and get in a rhythm, which I don't feel like we ever established since that first drive out of the half.
Different game plan?
No, it was 100 percent the exact same. Yeah, we acknowledge that our leader isn't going to be out on the field. The game plan is essentially the same. We went through it as if Taysom were here. We're going to go forward and play BYU football.
On opportunity to start as BYU QB:
You never want to start at someone else's expense or because they went down to a season-ending injury, but for me this is my dream. I grew up going to BYU football games with my dad. I always wanted to be a starting quarterback here. It's a dream come true and now I'm ready to take the helm and lead this team to victories.
Have you been talking to coach Anae?
I haven't as much talked to coach Anae as I have talked to coach Mendenhall. He's just expressed his sincere confidence in me, and he knows that I can do it. He expressed that to the team today in front of everybody that I am the guy. I'm the leader of this offense now and everybody has faith in me. It builds my confidence even more, knowing that everyone surrounding me has that confidence. And I'm excited to see what we do.
Junior LB Jherremya Leuta-Douyere
As far as momentum, it's different having a bye week. But we can't use that as an excuse. We just have to go out there and play every day and get better. When it comes to the game, we have to execute what we do in practice.
On who will be starting at inside linebacker:
I really don't know. That's something that's up to the coaches. We definitely have guys on both sides, Mike and Buck, that can step in and start at any time. The cool thing about our depth is that you can see any combination at different times. Anybody can go in and start any given week.
They have a pretty mobile quarterback and good receivers, much like Utah State. It's going to take a lot of film study in the short time that we have to prepare for them. It's an offense that we've seen a lot this year. There's definitely a lot of playmakers on the team, but it's our job to match what they have.
On the loss followed by a short week:
A loss is hard to overcome, but we have no other choice but to overcome. You can't dwell on the past. We have UCF coming in just a couple days, so we have to focus on that. Whatever happened with Utah State, you just have to flush it and move on. If you keep dwelling on the past, it's just going to hurt you more. It's a long season. Just as you guys saw this whole week with college football, anything can happen any week.