PROVO — For BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, last Saturday's nail-biting 14-13 victory at Ole Miss was "the best of both worlds."
Not only did the Cougars learn that they have a lot of improvements to make, but they also emerged victorious in Southeastern Conference country.
BYU trailed 13-0 in the fourth quarter before rallying by scoring two late touchdowns — one by the offense and one by the defense.
"When you win coming from behind in sort of the last hour of the game, that teachable moment is still there and you get the best of both worlds," Mendenhall said. "You get a great victory and you know what defeat could have tasted like because you were behind most of the game. There is a sense of relief in that you are glad you won, but there is a lot we can improve on."
Cougar players say they learned a lot about their team on their trip to Oxford, Miss.
"One thing we learned was how hard we try and that we tried until the end," said linebacker Jordan Pendleton. "We never gave up. It's good to have that close game where you know that even if it comes down to the last minute of the game, we have a chance to win."
"I learned that our team has a lot of fight. We were down 13-0 in the fourth quarter," said wide receiver McKay Jacobson. "We could have given up. At times, for whatever reason, things weren't flowing and going the way that you expect."
This week, the Cougars will go back on the road when they take on No. 24 Texas.
Mendenhall is counting on his team to carry with it the same traits that contributed to the win at Ole Miss. He is also counting on his team working hard to get better.
"I'm impressed with their grit, determination and resiliency, but I also acknowledge that we have a lot of execution and parts of our game that we have to improve," he said. "We're anxious to do so this week and we get ready to take on a formidable opponent."
BIGGEST COMEBACK: Saturday's victory marked the biggest comeback by a BYU team under Mendenhall.
The largest deficit the Cougars had rallied from prior to Saturday was 11 points at New Mexico in Mendenhall's first season in 2005.
Mendenhall said the win over the Rebels "was probably one of the most gratifying victories since I've been the coach. … It was as much if not more than any of the victories we have had. There wasn't a lot of panic on the sideline even until the end and it think that will show a deeper commitment and the right kind of mindset collectively as a team that will battle to the end. A game like that one or two plays can make difference and we were able to make them."
NEW SECONDARY: BYU has three new starters in the defensive backfield this season.
Safety Daniel Sorensen and cornerbacks Corby Eason and junior college transfer Preston Hadley started against Ole Miss, while another JC transfer, cornerback Joe Sampson, also saw significant playing time.