BYU football: Cougars face No. 5 Notre Dame Saturday, October 20th
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — It's another week, another Top-10 opponent for BYU.
The Cougars are coming off a 42-24 loss at home to then-No. 10 Oregon State, which jumped to No. 8 in the Associated Press poll released Sunday.
On Saturday (1:30 p.m. MT, NBC), BYU visits Notre Dame, which climbed to No. 5 in this week's AP poll.
It marks the first time in school history that the Cougars will collide with foes ranked in the Top 10 in back-to-back games.
The Fighting Irish defeated Stanford, 20-13, last Saturday after a dramatic goal-line stand in overtime on a rainy day in South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame's stingy defense, which hasn't surrendered a touchdown in four consecutive games, kept Cardinal running back Stephan Taylor inches shy of the end zone on fourth down to preserve the victory. Coach Brian Kelly called it a "classic, classic goal-line stand."
It's been that type of season for the Irish, who are off to a 6-0 start for the first time since 2002.
As for the Cougars (4-3), they are looking to bounce back from last Saturday's defeat at the hands of the Beavers. BYU and Oregon State were tied going into the fourth quarter before the Beavers outscored the Cougars 21-3 in the final period to keep their perfect season alive.
BYU now has a 4-12 record against ranked opponents under coach Bronco Mendenhall and has dropped five straight games to ranked opponents.
Things don't get any easier this week against Notre Dame.
"They're another quality opponent, similar to this one," quarterback Riley Nelson said after Saturday's setback. "It's going to be another tooth-and-nail dogfight on the road. They're a great team and we respect them. We're going to prepare harder and do everything we can to give ourselves a chance to win."
Nelson completed 28-of-51 passes for 305 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions against OSU after sitting out the previous two games with a back injury.
How will the Cougars, who are 0-2 this season in road games, bounce back from that disappointing defeat?
"It's going to be hard. It will be a great test for all of us," said Mendenhall. "We believed we had a great chance to compete and win this game (against Oregon State). We didn't play well enough to do it. But certainly, no one will feel sorry for us. We'll have to get right back up, work extremely hard, rally, and focus hard on making improvements and go into a difficult setting against another good team."
Linebacker Spencer Hadley said he and his teammates need to put last weekend's loss behind them.
"You have to. You don't have a choice. This game's in the books. It's over with. We can learn from it. We can see the things we did well, and see the things we didn't do well. We can make adjustments in practice and hit it hard, just go to South Bend and do the best we can."
BYU's defense, which entered last weekend ranked in the Top 10 in several statistical categories, gave up 450 yards and five touchdowns against OSU.
Backup quarterback Cody Vaz, who replaced injured starter Sean Mannion, carved up the Cougar secondary to the tune of 332 yards and three touchdowns.
"Our defense, we still have a lot of pride," said senior cornerback Preston Hadley. "There's a lot we can do to get better. We're going to fix what needs to be fixed."
He added that the Cougars will be focused on their next challenge.
"It's going to be a new week. Each week the goal is to go 1-0. We're going to prepare and train like crazy and get ready for it."
Notre Dame, meanwhile, is now in the national championship conversation.
Kelly is in his third year as the Irish coach, and historically, Year 3 for Notre Dame coaches has been special. Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz all claimed national titles in their third years at the helm in South Bend.
"We're halfway through the season, and six weeks left with this group," Kelly said. "I think they leave here knowing they can win if they stick with the plan."
BYU's plan? To try, once again, to upset a Top-10 opponent.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Cougars and Fighting Irish on the air
BYU (4-2) at No. 5 Notre Dame (6-0)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MT
Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
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