After easily dispatching Virginia and UNLV to start the season, UCLA suddenly finds itself in one of just four of the top-25 matchups in Week 3. BYU has outperformed expectations through the first half of September, vaulting to No. 19 in the latest AP poll following dramatic wins over Nebraska and Boise State. Are the Cougars playing above their heads, or do they have the makings of a surprise contender? The Salt Lake Tribune’s Jay Drew answered five questions about the team, which kicks off at the Rose Bowl at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
(Also, here are five questions I answered about UCLA for the Deseret News.)
1. Now in his 11th season, Bronco Mendenhall is one of the longest-tenured coaches in the FBS. How is he viewed by BYU fans, and is there any thought that he peaked when the Cougars were in the Mountain West?
I think most BYU fans view Mendenhall favorably, but there is certainly a vocal contingent out there that would like to see him resign or be replaced. Since Mendenhall took over in 2005, BYU ranks 12th in total wins among FBS teams, so it is hard to ignore his record. He’s won games, albeit against some lackluster schedules since BYU went independent in 2011.
By comparison, legendary BYU coach LaVell Edwards posted 94 wins in his first 131 games in Provo; Mendenhall has 92 wins in 131 games.
The argument that Mendenhall peaked when BYU was in the Mountain West has legs, especially since he saw early success using former coach Gary Crowton’s recruits. Not many guys that Mendenhall recruited himself have reached the NFL.
Perhaps the biggest knock on Mendenhall is that he hasn’t won a lot of “big” games against the tougher opponents on the schedule; Also, he has lost four straight games to rival Utah, an unforgivable sin in Provo. Three have been razor-close, but that doesn’t cut it for BYU fans.
Still, the coach has guided the Cougars to bowl appearances all 10 years at the helm, and BYU is 6-4 in those postseason games.
Personally, I think he has one of the most difficult jobs in the country, seeing how his hands are somewhat tied by the BYU honor code and now non-Power 5 affiliation. He once said there are about 40-50 players across the country each year with Division I ability who are in BYU’s recruiting pool, due to the school’s fairly tough academic standards and the honor code.
If he’s done anything wrong, in my opinion, it is that he has fueled some lofty and unrealistic expectations among the BYU fanbase with talk about competing for national championships and the like. From my view, he just doesn’t have the horses, or the resources, to get that done.
2. BYU has a bit of a reputation for being a dirty team, with Ului Lapuaho’s punch and last year’s Miami Bowl brawl both attracting widespread coverage. Is that reputation being overblown due to a few isolated events, or is there some truth behind it?
Not sure how to answer this one. It’s probably more about perception than anything else, because the Lapuaho punch got so much play on television and the internet, to be sure. Like you said, mostly just an isolated event. Continue reading “Five questions: Salt Lake Tribune’s Jay Drew on BYU” »