BYU football: Cougars know history, tradition of Notre Dame, but it is still just a football game
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU players have watched the movie "Rudy." Many of them have grown up with, and heard, stories about the mystique, tradition and history of Notre Dame. And they're looking forward to competing at a venerable venue like Notre Dame Stadium.
"It's going to be a cool experience, playing in an environment like that," said Cougar linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "I have friends and family that are going. It's going to be neat, and I'm going to soak up every moment I can with it."
At the same time, when BYU visits No. 5 Notre Dame Saturday (1:30 p.m., MT, NBC), the Cougars know they are facing a difficult challenge, regardless of outside distractions.
"I don't really get sucked into the hype of, 'Oh, it's Notre Dame.' Yeah, it will be fun to go to South Bend and playing there," said linebacker Spencer Hadley. "Fans get to approach it that way, but as players, we don't get to look at it like that. It's a business trip. It's not like we're going to Disneyland or something. We're going to play a football game and we're preparing as such."
"It will be nice to see the campus and see what the town's like," said tight end Kaneakua Friel. "There's a lot of history and tradition there. But it's just another game against a good team. We've played a lot of good teams this year and in the past. I don't feel like it's any different from any game we've played or will play."
Fresh off a humbling 42-24 loss to then-No. 10 Oregon State at home last Saturday, BYU is eager to rebound.
"That's what you want to do when you play college football. You want to play the best teams," Van Noy said. "Notre Dame is a great team to play. We're going to their stadium, on the road. Everything's all against us. We have that chip on our shoulder."
This marks the first time the Cougars will play top-10 teams in back-to-back weeks. Coach Bronco Mendenhall said this would be a good measuring stick for his program.
"I've learned a lot about our team and our program," said Mendenhall. "The only way that we'll take the next step in our program is to play teams like this and on the road is great, too. So I'm anxious to see how we handle it."
Mendenhall took his team to South Bend, Ind., during his first season as head coach in 2005, when the Cougars fell to the Fighting Irish, 49-23.
"In my case, once you've been there once, it's a really neat place," Mendenhall said. "But man, so much focus is just on the game now. Once our players get there they'll realize it's a nice place, a historic place, it's a place full of tradition, but we've just got to play."
Quarterback Riley Nelson doesn't concern himself about the history of Notre Dame.
"I never grew up a Notre Dame fan or anything like that," he said. "It's going to be a big, noisy stadium and they're No. 5 in the country. Other than that, I don't know much about it. We relish the opportunity and we're excited to see how we measure up."
Cornerback Preston Hadley said this trip to Notre Dame "will be cool, but when it comes down to it, every football field is the same. There's 100 yards on the field. We're just going to go out and play our game and play hard and keep getting better.”
"It's a big opportunity for us," he added. "We can really come out and make a statement. It's exciting. This is the big stage, it's the big games that we want to be in."
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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