Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Both coaches started the same time, getting hired within a week of each other in December of 2004. They started their first seasons as head coaches in the fall of 2005.
So, after six years and a couple of months, how are Utah's Kyle Whittingham and BYU's Bronco Mendenhall doing?
Would you believe that as of Saturday at just after 8 o'clock, just after Utah's 34-21 victory over Arizona, they enjoy the exact same 62-24 records?
You could argue all day about which coach has been more successful.
Let's see, Whittingham has a better bowl record (5-1) than Mendenhall (4-2).
But Mendenhall has won more outright conference championships (2 to 1)
But Whittingham has a better record (15-9) against BCS schools than Mendenhall (10-10).
On the other hand, Mendenhall has produced more academic all-Americans.
But in head to head games, Whittingham has the edge, 4-3.
Yeah, but Mendenhall's game-day gray T-shirt looks cooler than Whittingham's all-black sweatsuit.
You could go on and on.
But besides their starting dates and exact-same records, there is something else the two coaches have in common.
They're both extremely resilient. At least that's the m.o. of the teams they coach.
It's been shown time and again that it's impossible to keep a Mendenhall- or Whittingham-coached team down for very long.
In nearly every season the two coaches have worked, each has found a way to come back from adversity.
It goes back to their first years on the job when both started off kind of shakily.
Mendenhall lost three of his first four games, before winning five of his next six to finish with a 6-6 record and a bowl appearance.
Whittingham's first team endured a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season and looked to be out of the bowl picture with starting quarterback Brian Johnson injured just before the BYU game. However the Utes rallied with an upset over the Cougars in Provo and a decisive bowl win over Georgia Tech.
In 2006, after losing two of three to start the season, Mendenhall's Cougars reeled off 10 straight wins, including a whipping of Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The next year was a repeat — 10 straight wins after a 1-2 start.
In 2009, the Cougars rebounded from a midseason whipping by TCU to finish with five straight wins.
Then last year, the Cougars came back from a 2-5 start to finish with a winning record of 7-6 and were just a blocked field goal away from finishing the season on a six-game winning streak.
In Whittingham's second year, his team was 4-4 before winning four of five to finish the season. In 2007, the Utes suffered that ignoble 27-0 loss to UNLV to fall to 1-3, only to recover nicely with seven straight wins.
Last year, the Utes started strong before losing back-to-back games to TCU and Notre Dame. But just when the season seemed to be unraveling, the Utes came from behind to beat San Diego State and then BYU for another 10-3 season.
That brings us to this year, which is another perfect example of the resiliency of each coach.
The Cougars looked to be on their way to a mediocre record when they lost two of their first three games including the humiliating 54-10 loss to the Utes. But comeback wins over Central Florida and Utah State got them going, and before you knew it, they had won five straight and were bowl-eligible for the seventh straight year.
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