The following is a partial transcript from head coach Bronco Mendenhall's weekly press conference, including comments from running back Bryan Kariya, defensive lineman Simote Vea and defensive back Joe Sampson.
Good morning. After what seems like a long layoff we are anxious to play. Our coaches are eager to get back into practice and I think our players will be as well. The rest was effective and helpful and they enjoyed the time with their families. Also after a few days I found myself anxious to get back and finish our season. I think that will be the mindset that our team shows. We will work Monday through Wednesday aggressively here in Provo before we board the flight Wednesday. Thursday will be the players chance to enjoy being on the island. We will have a practice there but again our focus will be to get the majority of work done here because we had a couple days last week. We are looking forward to renewing this rivalry.
It has been a long time. I haven’t been to Hawai'i with BYU. The last time I was there was with the University of New Mexico. I have only been there twice in terms of my coaching career. I know at one point this was a significant game for both schools. Possibly we can redevelop or develop that into a game like that and this will be one of the first steps.
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Do you know, today, who will be starting at quarterback?
I don’t. Riley Nelson has another checkup this week. There will be another CT scan. He has been cleared to fly but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has been cleared to play yet. We are going to prepare both quarterbacks throughout the week. Hopefully as more information comes from the medical staff the more we will know. If Riley were cleared to play I would start Riley.
Can you talk about the distractions or possible distractions of playing in Hawai'i?
I checked the surf report, and it's supposed to be good, so if I'm not there at the game, then you'll know what's happened. When you go to Hawai'i, it's a vacation destination; the weather's nice, there is the ocean right there. It's natural unless you frame it to your team that there are times to focus on playing and times to focus on fun, and having clear delineations in between.
The practice model will set the tone for what we expect on Saturday, and that's the best way I know how to handle it. The maturity level of the players will also come into play and some will have a harder time than others. I think its probably why, and I have no statistics in front of me, but I would guess Hawai'i’s record at home is stronger than it is away because of the advantage of being used to it.
Hawai'i lost its starting quarterback a few weeks ago, does that change how you prepare for them?
We've taken a hard look at that, and really the nature off their offense hasn't changed one bit. They've played two different quarterbacks since then. The routes haven't changed, the receivers haven't changed, the running back hasn't changed, nor have the offensive linemen. They're just doing it with different quarterbacks. Short of the experience benefit, they still seem to be moving the ball effectively. They throw it for about 300 yards and run it for about 100 yards and score a lot of points. I think Hawai'i is more systematic than personnel-driven.
Did you miss not having the BYU-Utah game not over the Thanksgiving week?
Yeah, I did. I never thought I would say that, because of how much hype and anticipation, but the season didn't seem right to finish. I'm not sure their thoughts are, in having it inferred that Colorado is their rival, but it is a lot of history so it is natural for that game to not quite be what it was in terms of the BYU-Utah game. I think it's just unfortunate that there's not a way to schedule around that.
Can you give us an update on what happened with the Big East?
I don't know, I really don't. I'm sure at some point maybe our administration will address that, but I really didn't ask any other questions, other than I told them I would trust their judgment when it ever got down to that point. I gave my input early, updated you whenever that was and that was when I really bowed out. I trusted our administration to go with it from there.
Can you assess the growth of Brandon Doman as an offensive coordinator?
I’ll try to. What I think is the best way to gauge it is in our conversations I think he has gained confidence. In our spring game, as we were joking to each other even having fans in the stadium for our first scrimmage seemed to make a difference for him. I had forgotten it was the first time he had called plays in front of anyone. Then to have as tough of a schedule as we had in the beginning of the year with that newness and getting acclimatized I think he has done a nice job of growth. And not necessarily in a playcalling role but in field presence and leadership role day by day in the season.
Where have I seen the most growth? I would say day by day in leadership presence on the practice field and how he handles the team in terms of preparation. The plays being called are similar but the confidence in which they are being called and the command of the staff and offensive unit that has changed quite a bit from week one to week 12. That is noticeable.
Running back Bryan Kariya
What has your final season been like here at BYU?
It has been great. We didn't start as fast as we would have liked to, dropping a few close ones. The Utah game we would have liked to win all those. It has been a productive season. We have been able to push the program forward and get better as things have gone on. We are looking to continue the momentum we have had and finish strong thoughout the rest of the games we have.
Was it productive having a second bye week?
I guess we will see how it goes over the next couple of games. It was nice to spend time with family over Thanksgiving. But we are hungry and ready to go for this week as well. We want to come back and make sure we have everything in line and ready to go for our game on Saturday.
Defensive lineman Simote Vea
Does it make it tough with no conference title and knowing where you are going for a bowl game early on?
Every practice our coaches get on us to better ourselves. Yeah we are bowl eligible but there is so much more we could be. We could be more dominant and more assignment sound. That is how are practices have been; just trying to get better.
Will it be difficult to focus in Hawai'i?
I think it will affect some players. But ultimately we are going there to play a game and play our last football game. For me being a senior and the rest of the seniors I hope we can focus enough, pull ourselves together and win.
Defensive back Joe Sampson
How difficult will it be to defend Hawai'i's uptempo passing offense?
They pass the ball a lot. I think we feel like it plays to our strengths. We have a good pass defense and we will be ready. I love playing against teams that pass our run outside a lot. It's fun.
What are the chances of distraction with Hawai'i being a vacation destination?
I've never been to Hawai'i and it will be a good experience. But I don't think it will be a distraction. We are trying to win as many games as possible still no matter what. We won't take them lightly.