BYU football: Cougars flattered, concerned by ranking

Published: Tuesday, Sept. 30 2008 12:56 a.m. MDT

PROVO — When BYU defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen found out his team had jumped from No. 11 into the top 10 of the national rankings — No. 8 in the Associated Press poll and No. 7 in the coaches' poll — he didn't get excited. He didn't celebrate.

"I just got scared, to be completely honest with you," Jorgensen said Monday. "We're a team that's never been here before. I got really worried about how guys on the team are going to take it. ... When I saw that we moved into the top 10, like we did, immediately I didn't really have the chance to enjoy it. I just got worried.

"We've got a very good team, but we've never experienced anything like this before. We're going to have to take it upon us as team leaders to keep everybody humble and ready to play every week. We know we're going to have a target on our back. Teams are going to want to upset the top-10 BYU Cougars."

The next opponent with its sights on knocking off BYU is Utah State. The Cougars (4-0) and Aggies (1-3) meet Friday night at 6 in Logan.

BYU, which enjoyed a bye last weekend, landed in the top 10 for the first time since 2001 thanks to a spate of upsets over the weekend.

"It feels good to get that recognition. But obviously it's something we can't focus on too much," said tight end Dennis Pitta. "We didn't even play this weekend and we moved up four spots. We're fortunate to have this opportunity because other teams lost. There's not a lot we did this week to move up. We're just focused on getting another win and being able to stay where we're at now."

Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall said he isn't putting much stock in the lofty ranking, adding that the fact his team made such a big jump when it didn't even play "says a lot about the system. It is interesting to me that we can move up without playing a game. I think fundamentally, that's not right. ... We're certainly flattered. But at this point it still has, to me, very little relevance. Maybe after four more weeks or five more weeks, there will actually be a clearer resemblance of who are the best teams in the country."

Mendenhall spent a part of last Saturday watching football games at home with his family. "The general impression was, on any given Saturday, any team is at risk no matter whom they are playing or where," Mendenhall said. "That's the great thing about college football."

Quarterback Max Hall said that he learned important lessons from the teams that were upset last weekend.

"That's the way college football is nowadays. You can't come out lackadaisical in any given week, no matter who you play," Hall said.

"No matter if you're playing a big-time team or if you're playing someone whose record shows that they're not as good, you've got to be ready to play. Utah State is going to want to play us tough. It's at their place. It's going to be a fun atmosphere and a fun game to play, but we've got to make sure that we're not lazy or not precise in our execution after a bye week."

Hall said it's important to capitalize on the ranking.

"The bottom line is, teams in the top 10 lost. That gave us an opportunity to move up," he said. "Now we have to take advantage of it. We've got to make sure we finish out and not let that happen to us, as far as being upset. I feel like if we lose any games from here on out, it will be an upset. So, again, we have to come to play every week and I think we'll stay in the top 10. Then we'll reach our goal at the end of the season and get to play in a BCS game."

How does BYU compare to other top teams around the country?

"As I watched all the other teams play, there are some teams that definitely have more talent," Jorgensen said. "But as a football team, we are just as good or better than anybody else. BYU is a great football team. We know our assignments, we execute, we do things right, we do what we're supposed to do. Because of that, we make up for a lot. When we do execute, when we play how we're supposed to, we can play with anybody."

INJURY UPDATE: Receiver Spencer Hafoka (bruised foot) is not expected to play Friday. Other than Hafoka, Mendenhall doesn't anticipate anyone else being sidelined against Utah State. "The rest of the players are healthy and will return to play," he said.

Pitta, who was held out of practices last week with a shoulder injury suffered against Wyoming, said he underwent a lot of rehab last week. "It feels good," Pitta said of the shoulder. "No complaints there."

BYU on the air

No. 8 BYU (4-0)

at Utah State (1-3)

Friday, 6 p.m.

TV: KJZZ

Radio: 1160 AM, 1320 AM


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com

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