Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
PROVO — During the Bronco Mendenhall era at BYU, the Cougars have been able to record some signature wins on a national level.
Building off those big wins, however, has been a different story.
BYU’s 59-0 win against UCLA in 2008 was followed up by several weeks of lackluster play and culminated in a 32-7 beatdown at the hands of TCU. In 2009, the Cougars opened with a win over No. 3-ranked Oklahoma before taking it on the chin to Florida State a couple of weeks later.
This season, the Cougars are focused on building on the momentum they gained from knocking off then-No. 15 Texas last week.
“I don’t want our team to settle with that and be complacent with that,” senior defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna said about the Texas win. “We have a lot of good teams on the schedule and this week’s game is huge for us. We need to keep the things we did well against Texas and fix the things we didn’t do well. We’re working hard. ... We need to keep this thing going.”
To do that, the Cougars first have to defeat a Utah team they've lost three straight games to. The Utes come into the contest unranked and on the heels of a tough loss to Oregon State, but that clearly doesn't dampen the game's importance for a number of reasons.
One of the big reasons is being perceived as the state's top team.
“I think the state championship is extremely important, being independent especially,” said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall. “It’s something (the players) value and I want to support them to do that. If you can win the state, that’s a springboard into national prominence because we play good football in the state.”
BYU will enter Saturday's contest with two weeks of game prep after last week's bye. Most, including Mendenhall, have viewed the extra prep time as an advantage, but following Monday's practice, the Cougar head coach changed his tune.
“From what I saw today it’s been the other way,” Mendenhall said after Monday's practice. “It looks like our players were sluggish and kind of bored. We’re not prepared to play it yet, but if I had to do it again after experiencing it, I’d rather have the game right after Texas. I don’t think I said that last week ... but it seems as if it’s been a month since we’ve played.
“I’m not worried yet if we’ll have it ready by Saturday, but I thought we’d be fresher and look faster than we did today,” Mendenhall added.
TIME TO HEAL: One thing working in BYU's favor is that guys are getting healthy. A week off has allowed some nagging injuries to mend — including senior defensive back Mike Hague's knee injury. Hague is expected to see his first action of the season against Utah, according to Mendenhall.
Defensive back Dallin Leavitt is also expected to participate fully, along with linebacker Uani Unga, receiver Eric Thornton and offensive lineman Edward Fusi. All of those players had injury issues after the Texas game.
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