PROVO — BYU linebacker Jordan Pendleton would like to forget last year's game against Utah State — and not just because of the final score.
The Aggies won that night in Logan, 31-16, and, as it turned out, that marked the final time Pendleton played in 2010.
"It was one of the worst days of my life," Pendleton recalled this week. "They killed us, first of all, and we hadn't lost to them in (17) years. I dislocated my finger in that game and I dislocated my knee and I was out for the year. It was the most frustrating day of my life last year playing against this team."
Pendleton may, or may not, have a chance to face the Aggies again Friday (6 p.m., MT, ESPN). That's because the 6-foot-3, 238-pound senior is now nursing an ankle injury that sidelined him last week against Central Florida. Team trainer Kevin Morris said it will be a game-time decision.
"I'd love to be able to play against (Utah State) to get that bad taste out of my mouth. But if I can't, I know my team's going to be ready and I need to focus on getting back fully healthy so I can help my team," Pendleton said. "My ankle is getting better and better every day. I've started to turn a corner. I'm really optimistic. I'm not positive about this week, but I think for sure next week I'll be back."
What does Pendleton mean to the Cougar defense?
"Jordan Pendleton is a playmaker," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "And he's been through a lot. He's experienced, he's seasoned, he's determined and he's committed. He's had about every injury you can have and he keeps coming back. I think he's having fun this year. He believes in our program and our staff. He makes plays. We're doing everything we can collectively to get him out there as much as possible."
When it comes to injuries, Pendleton has experienced more than his share of bad luck. After undergoing shoulder and knee surgery during the offseason, it didn't take long for him to deal with another health challenge. His ankle injury occurred on the last play of the game against Texas on Sept. 10.
"I was running and someone landed on my ankle from behind. I tore a couple of ligaments," he said. "I tried to play in the Utah game — I wasn't going to miss the Utah game — so I got it shot up and ended up hurting my ankle worse (he played in the first half against the Utes, but was not able to play in the second half). So I kind of took a step back. Now I have to be smart with it and come back when I'm ready."
During his BYU career, Pendleton has learned lessons about coping with adversity.
"The main thing that has been frustrating is, (the ankle injury) was out of my control," he said. "My shoulders feel good, my knees feel good. I feel fast and I feel like I've been physical and that I've been playing good this year. When someone lands on your foot from behind, and you don't even see it coming, that's when it's frustrating. People probably think I'm injury-prone, but I'm really not. It was just one of those plays that happens and now I've got to try to bounce back and come and play. I need to be patient."
Last year's knee injury at Utah State occurred when he was "locked up" with an Aggie player.
"My leg kind of got caught in the turf and I felt my knee pop," Pendleton said. "I fell to the ground, and as I was falling, it popped back in. I knew something had happened. I wondered if I blew out my knee. I tried to get up and I couldn't bend my knee. It was crazy, a freak accident."
Missing games due to injury is a topic of conversation between Pendleton and his brother-in-law, and former teammate, Austin Collie, who is an Indianapolis Colts wide receiver. A year ago, Collie sustained a couple concussions that sidelined him for an extended period.
"We talk about it, especially this past year," Pendleton said. "We've both taken some hits. He's had the concussions and I've had the knee injury that put me out. In the offseason we worked out together and we hung out quite a bit. We do talk about it. It's frustrating for both of us, but we try to stay positive. We're both feeling a lot better this year."
Pendleton is hoping to return to the field Friday against Utah State. He's also hoping to ease the bad memories of last year's loss, the season-ending injury, and one of the worst days of his life.
Cougars, Aggies on the air
Utah State (1-2)
at BYU (2-2)
Today, 6 p.m.
TV: ESPN Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM