AUSTIN, Texas — Having grown up in the Lone Star State, BYU linebacker Brandon Ogletree knows all about the aura and mystique of University of Texas football.
It's home to four national championships, an historic 100,000-seat stadium, the iconic Longhorn logo, the distinctive burnt orange uniforms, a steer mascot named Bevo that roams the sidelines, a catchy fight song, and the "Hook 'Em Horns" hand signal that is ubiquitous in Austin.
"There's a great tradition of great football at Texas," said Ogletree, a junior from McKinney. "The passion and pageantry is unmatched."
As the Cougars prepare to invade Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium Saturday (5 p.m., MT, ESPN2) to tangle with the No. 24 Longhorns, they are eager to play in one of the nation's most hallowed venues.
"It's going to be cool. It will be the biggest crowd BYU's ever played in front of, so that's an exciting thing," said Ogletree, who attended some Longhorn games when he was being recruited by Texas.
To date, the largest crowd to watch BYU play was 96,304 in 1991 at Penn State.
"They've had a lot of tradition down there," McKay Jacobson, a native of Southlake, Texas, said of the Longhorns. "They've been a powerhouse for a long time. They're a great program."
As an independent, this is exactly the type of exposure the Cougars crave.
"We're always looking for the next occasion to rise to," Ogletree said. "It's a great occasion for us to be able to rise to, playing on a national stage. It will be a great test. We're excited to prove that we can beat them."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall is eager to see how his team performs against one of the most powerful and prominent programs in the country.
"There is a lot of history and it will be a great experience for our players," Mendenhall said. "When you consider that in the world of who are the 'haves' and 'have nots' in college football in terms of the glitter and the budget, you probably think of Texas and Oregon. It will be fun for our players to not only have heard of the things Texas has and their reputation and tradition but to see that and measure themselves against the players and see if those things match."
Mendenhall wants his players to embrace the experience of playing at Texas.
"In a way, I want them to acknowledge that it's a unique place to play with a lot of history and a great venue," he said. "I'd like them to acknowledge it, then get super-excited to be a part of it rather than feel like that's going to work against them."
While Texas has posted a 134-34 record since 1998 under coach Mack Brown, the Longhorns hit a speed bump last season, finishing with a dismal 5-7 mark. It snapped a streak of nine consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories. Texas started the season unranked for the first time since '98.
But the way BYU sees it, Texas is still Texas, regardless of what happened last season.
"They have some of the nicest facilities, largest budget, best coaches year in, year out," Mendenhall said. "I think most people in the game recognize that and think of it the same."
"When you see burnt orange and white, that's the first thing that comes to mind, is national championships," Ogletree said. "They've always been relevant. If you don't count how they did last year, they've always had a good team. They have a lot of athletes like they always do and they'll be ready to play. I think Mack Brown's a great coach. He'll have those guys ready."
BYU running back Bryan Kariya said his team has plenty of respect for Texas.
"Even though they didn't have the kind of season they wanted last season, I know they have a great coach and a lot of good athletes down there," he said. "They have a great program. People are going to be expecting them to come out and win games. That's a lot of motivation for a team to put that together and live up to their name and I think they're going to fight to do that. We expect the best Texas team we can possibly imagine."
Linebacker Jordan Pendleton said Texas simply went through a "rebuilding year" last season.
"We didn't have a good record last year, either. It was a rebuilding year for us," he said. "A team like that you always have to respect. We respect everybody we play. We're not going in looking at them like, 'They had a losing record last year.' We're playing Texas, and they have a great coach there and he's going to have his team ready."
The Cougars vow that they won't be intimidated by the huge crowd or the mystique of Texas.
"We don't get intimidated by anyone. It doesn't matter who you are," said Ogletree. "It doesn't matter if you're Texas or the Dallas Cowboys. We don't care who we're playing."
"We don't get intimidated. We take all of these teams as a challenge," Pendleton said. "We're excited to be able to play these types of teams, being independent now and getting that exposure. We want to show that we can play with anybody. That's our plan. Win or lose, we want to go out and play the best teams."8 comments on this story
The Cougars would like to make another statement Saturday, one week after downing a Southeastern Conference team on the road, by beating a Big 12 foe — Texas — on the road.
"We're trying to say that we can play with anyone out there. Hopefully we can back it up and do that," said BYU center Terence Brown. "You want to play the best. If you end up losing to them, you at least know where you stand. I think we'll go down there and have a good fight on our hands."
Cougars and Longhorns on the air
BYU (1-0) at No. 24 Texas (1-0)
Saturday, 5 p.m. MT
Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, Austin, Texas
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM