BYU, Tulsa coaches flying high going into bowl game

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 13 2011 10:13 p.m. MST

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, left, and Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship were given a ride in a helicopter Tuesday.

Richard K Dalton , All

As part of the ninth annual Armed Forces Bowl festivities, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship were in Fort Worth, Texas, Tuesday, and they enjoyed a rare birds-eye view of The Metroplex.

The two coaches attended a news conference to talk about their upcoming game (Dec. 30, 10 a.m., ESPN), and to take a helicopter ride, courtesy of the bowl's title sponsor, Bell Helicopter.

"I learned that it's smoother than what I thought but still you'd better have somebody driving that knows what they're doing," Mendenhall said. "I loved the perspective that was gained by looking down. I loved to see Dallas Cowboys Stadium. When you see it from the helicopter, it doesn't seem so ominous. Sometimes as a leader, it's good to step back a little bit to get a different perspective. So I was thinking kind of metaphorically as I was holding onto the handle for dear life."

"It was exciting," Tulsa coach Bill Blankenship said of his first helicopter ride. "I've got to get me one of those. That was pretty sweet. That's the way to fly."

Both coaches are hoping their teams are flying high come game day. The two teams are taking similar approaches as they make bowl preparations.

BYU players are taking final exams this week and will begin bowl practices on Dec. 19. "We'll let our players have one last chance to have a weekend," Mendenhall said.

The Cougars (9-3) will arrive in Texas on Dec. 26.

"We'll practice all the way until Christmas Eve day," Mendenhall continued. "We'll give our players Christmas Day and Christmas Eve day off, then we'll report to Fort Worth on (Dec. 26) and practice here for four days prior to playing. We'll get in eight or nine practices with hopefully a healthy, fast and eager football team."

Blankenship said his players are in the middle of final exams until Thursday. Tulsa (8-4) will practice Friday and Saturday, then resume practices until Dec. 22 before taking a break for Christmas. The Golden Hurricane will also arrive in Fort Worth on Dec. 26.

"We expect a fantastic game," said Armed Forces Bowl executive director Brant Ringler.

For Armed Forces Bowl officials, one of the goals of this game is to pay tribute to the military serving throughout the world.

"Our bowl game is not just about football. It's about the men and women that serve our country and what they do for us," Ringler said. "We couldn't do it without them. You'll see a lot of fanfare at the game to say thank you to them."

At the news conference Ringler noticed, and made mention, of the "Band of Brothers" slogan on BYU's helmet.

"There is a great tie-in to the theme and the purpose of this game. We're really excited to be playing in it," Mendenhall said. "We think it's a fantastic matchup as well. The matchup between Tulsa and BYU is very intriguing. Two teams with similar records and a similar hunger to keep adding one more game to break into the next level of credibility and the national landscape. To be able do that while honoring our military personnel, that combination is pretty powerful and formidable."

Blankenship said he and his team are honored to be playing in this game as well.

"To have an opportunity for our players to experience the bowl season as a reward for what we've done so far is really a big deal," he said. "Then to combine that with the connection to the Armed Forces and the folks that defend us across the world and their families, I don't know how there can be a better bowl anywhere."

Email: jeffc@desnews.com

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