BYU football: Cougars looking forward to taking on Utes
Tom Smart, Deseret News
PROVO — For the past year, the BYU football program has had to live with the demoralizing result of last year's game against arch-rival Utah.
The Utes dismantled and embarrassed the Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium last September, 54-10.
Now, coming off a 45-13 victory over Weber State, BYU — which jumped into the Associated Press poll Sunday for the first time this season at No. 25 — visits Utah Saturday (8 p.m., ESPN2).
But the Cougars (2-0) don't want to talk much about last year's debacle.
"It's a new year, so you've just got to have amnesia," said cornerback Preston Hadley. "Obviously, I think our team is motivated. Nothing has to be said. We're just going to worry about us."
"We're not looking backwards," said wide receiver JD Falslev. "The whole (2011) season really left us hungry and left us wanting more. We had a great bowl game, but we wanted more. I think that's evident on this team. We want more. We're fighting for every blade of grass. We have that quote in the defensive room that says, 'Fight for every blade of grass.' That's evident on the field."
Wide receiver Cody Hoffman said he's looking forward to the showdown at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
"It's always exciting no matter what, especially since last year. We're going to come ready on Monday. We're going to practice hard."
"It's just another game for us," said Falslev. "Everybody gets hyped for Utah-BYU. We have to take the focus of it being just another game. The things we've done until now have prepared us for that, but we still have a lot of things we can do a lot better on. We'll take this week of practice that we have, use it to the best of our abilities and do everything we can to win on Saturday."
Many of BYU's players watched the Utes' (1-1) most recent game — a 27-20 overtime loss at Utah State on Friday night.
"That was a fun football game to watch. Man, we play good football in the state of Utah," said quarterback Riley Nelson, who hails from Logan and played for the Aggies as a freshman before transferring to BYU. "Both of those teams battled it out. I'd venture to say that our games (against Utah and Utah State) will probably look similar to that — just knock-down, drag-out, physical football games, and points will be tough to come by. A lot of emotion, a lot of energy. (Friday) night was the first of that series. It was exciting to watch."
"It was a good game, a hard-fought game," Hoffman said. "Both of those teams wanted to win, you could tell. Fortunately, Utah State came out on top."
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said he didn't watch the Utah-Utah State game because he was attending a fireside that night.
"I heard it was a great one," the coach said.
In last year's 44-point loss to Utah, BYU had seven turnovers — six fumbles and one interception — with several of those leading to Ute scores. The Cougars actually led 10-7 in the second quarter before Utah poured on 47 unanswered points. It marked the Utes' most lopsided victory over BYU since a 43-0 blanking in 1931.
Meanwhile, the Cougars rushed for only 11 yards.
At times, BYU had trouble running the ball against Weber State, and it had a pair of turnovers on an interception by Nelson and a fumble by Hoffman.
Those are among the things the Cougars are looking to improve on.
BYU offensive coordinator Brandon Doman, who has been through many of these rivalry games as a player and as a coach, said he is "excited" for this contest, especially considering that the series will take a hiatus in 2014 and 2015.
"This is a fun week," he said. "I know we only have a couple more of them for a little while. But reality is, it's kind of morphed itself. It's changed a little bit. We have a lot of good opponents on the schedule. I think we'll have to be very careful not to do anything different than what we've done. Like we say, every day is game day, and we'll approach the game the same. Hopefully we'll play an efficient football game. The best team will win, I'm sure."
Cougars and Utes on the air
No. 25 BYU (2-0) at Utah (1-1)
Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV: ESPN2 Radio: 700 AM, 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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