PROVO — To put it mildly, September was a rough month for BYU.
The Cougars dealt with the travails of a two-quarterback system, lost three consecutive games and lost two starters to season-ending injuries.
"A lot of unique challenges this year. I'm learning a lot, growing a lot as an individual," said coach Bronco Mendenhall as he prepared his team for Friday night's game at Utah State. "I'm really impressed with our team's resiliency. I know over time we'll execute in a manner that will pay off. But certainly, a lot of challenges right now."
BYU started 1-3 in Mendenhall's first season in 2005 and ended up going 6-6. Since then, the Cougars have gone 11-2, 11-2, 10-3 and 11-2 the past four seasons.
"It's been a really interesting thing. We started 1-3 in my first year, six years ago," he said. "I really don't remember what that feels like because of the successes."
He recalled defeating New Mexico in the 2005 season, which gave the Cougars their second win, and how it served as a turning point for the program.
"We were so desperate," he said, remembering that victory over the Lobos.
Mendenhall is dealing with this year's dismal start differently than he did in '05.
"At this point, my perspective is a little bit different," he said. "Not that I don't want to win, not that I don't desperately want to help our kids play at a higher level. But I've actually tried to remain very consistent from what our team has seen the past four years and not overreact, but simply try to continue to help them with details of performance in practice to reach their goals. I hope the players are sensing the urgency from me, but I've tried to stay consistent."
MORE CHALLENGES AHEAD: There are more tough games coming up for BYU in October.
After playing Utah State, the Cougars host an improving San Diego State squad that's off to a 3-1 start. After that, BYU visits defending Mountain West Conference champion TCU (4-0), which is ranked No. 5 in the nation.
But Mendenhall said he's not looking at future opponents and how they're playing.
"I don't think anything that anyone else is doing can increase the sense of urgency I feel," the Cougars' coach said. "I have a clear vision of what I want this team to play like and what I believe they can play like. It really has nothing to do with anyone else around us. That vision in the past has been very helpful in winning a lot of football games and moving the program forward. To look any farther than a single practice or a single game wouldn't be wise."
Rich leads the nation in solo tackles with 30 and he is No. 2 in solo tackles per game (7.5), trailing only Mason Foster of Washington (7.67). This season, Rich has twice recorded 14-tackle games.