BYU football: BYU looking to upset No. 5 Notre Dame, last chance to make big statement
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — BYU has one last chance to make a big statement this season.
That chance comes Saturday (1:30 p.m., MT, NBC), when the Cougars visit No. 5 Notre Dame at historic Notre Dame Stadium. If BYU can beat the favored Fighting Irish, it would certainly go down as one of the biggest victories in school history.
The independent Cougars (4-3) have no conference championship to play for and its bowl destination was decided long ago. But this meeting against the independent Fighting Irish (6-0) provides BYU with another shot at a team ranked in the top 10.
Never mind all the tradition, mystique and history that permeates South Bend.
"It's the No. 5 team in the country," said quarterback Riley Nelson. "That's what I'm most excited about."
A win against Notre Dame certainly would help make up for squandered opportunities against Utah, Boise State and Oregon State.
"It's cool to play in front of a lot of people and on national television against a good team," said linebacker Brandon Ogletree. "If you can't get up for it, you probably don't have a pulse because that's what we live for. It will be a lot of fun."
Nelson is confident that the Cougars can knock off Notre Dame and spoil its perfect season — if they can put together a complete game.
"It's going to take everything going right for us," Nelson acknowledged. "But we definitely feel that if we play our best game, that will put us in position to win."
BYU, coming off a 42-24 loss to then-No. 10 Oregon State, knows it must play much better than it did last week. The Cougar defense, which saw its streak of 13 quarters without giving up a touchdown snapped a week ago, is looking for redemption after giving up five TDs to the Beavers.
"I'm anxious to have our defense to perform as they did the first six weeks, not as they performed last week," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "That's my main focus right now, getting them to perform again the way I know they're capable of."
"Going into Oregon State, I thought we would play dominant, so I really don't know what happened," Ogletree said. "But hopefully that was just a lapse and we'll be back to our normal selves."
Irish starting quarterback Everett Golson, who sustained a concussion last week against Stanford, was cleared to practice this week. But coach Brian Kelly is not naming a starter until game time. Tommy Rees, who has started 17 games in his career, could get the nod.
Meanwhile, the Cougar offense will be looking for the end zone against an Irish defense that hasn't surrendered a touchdown in four games. Notre Dame, which is giving up just 8.7 points per game, will be seeking a shutout.
"Our main thing is dominating. As defense we want to dominate," said Irish linebacker Manti Te'o. "We want to dominate opponents. The best way to do that is to keep the points down. Along the way of doing that, we've managed to limit those points and the touchdowns."
Why is Notre Dame so successful at keeping opponents out of the end zone?
"They do a good job of not busting. Their discipline is what allows it," Nelson said. "(Notre Dame's opponents) were in the (red) zone a lot, yet none of those teams came away with a lot of points. I don't want to say 'bend, don't break,' but they play disciplined defense and they make you earn every yard, every point."
Offensive coordinator Brandon Doman has devised a plan that he hopes will produce yards and points against the Irish.
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