Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — If BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall had his way, the Cougars would be playing a Football Championship Subdivision opponent, like Idaho State, early in the season, not in the middle.
BYU is in its first season of independence, and the school had just a few months to put together the 2011 schedule. The Cougars take on the Bengals on Saturday.
Next season, BYU is scheduled to face FCS foe Weber State in the second game of the year, on Sept. 8, 2012.
"It's not only better for BYU in terms of coming out of fall camp and building into the more difficult part of the season, or the longer stretch, but I think it's also better for the I-AA opponent as they get into conference play," Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall said he remembers when the Cougars played Eastern Washington in October 2007, and talking to then-EWU coach Paul Wulff, who is now the coach at Washington State.
"He hated the game," Mendenhall said. "It was game seven or eight (of the season). They were in the middle of a conference race, then they stopped and had to go back to the conference race. It doesn't flow quite as well."
NEW STAFF SETTLING IN: BYU opened the 2011 season with two new coaches, wide receivers coach Ben Cahoon and running backs coach Joe DuPaix, and several changes in responsibilities.
Quarterbacks coach Brandon Doman was elevated to offensive coordinator, and Lance Reynolds switched from running backs coach to tight ends coach. Kelly Poppinga was promoted from graduate assistant to outside linebackers coach and secondary coach Nick Howell took over the special teams.
Seven games into the season, how is the staff's chemistry and how is it dealing with the new roles?
"It's coming along. Still a work in progress," Mendenhall said. "There's still a kink or two every game or every practice week that we're working out. Overall, it's really a fun group of guys to work with. It's a very united group and a very unselfish group and a very unified group. I really enjoy that about them."
HOFFMAN'S HIGHLIGHTS: In last Saturday's win over Oregon State, wide receiver Cody Hoffman caught a 46-yard pass on his back after juggling the ball a couple of times.
Asked about that catch, Hoffman said, "I feel like they're all routine to me. How I was brought up, if it touches your hand, then you can catch it. I try to make sure they all make routine. Some of them look harder than others."
BY THE NUMBERS: BYU is tied for No. 111 in the nation in turnovers lost, with 17, while it is tied for No. 23 in the nation in turnovers gained, with 15. The Cougars are tied for No. 79 in turnover margin with minus .29 per game.
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