I think it’s a matter of consistency and a matter of execution in practice on a day-in-and-day-out basis. So I think that is the next step. As we continue to play better and better teams, and more frequently, and on the road, the level we prepare and demonstrate preparedness in practice has to increase. —BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall
PROVO — The narrative for the BYU football team has largely been the same for a while now, and fans have grown weary.
They aren’t the only ones.
On the heels of yet another close loss to a top opponent on the road, both players and coaches displayed a surprising amount of discouragement in interviews Tuesday. This time it was Notre Dame and a 23-13 loss — an outcome that coaches and players believe was just a few key moments away from being flipped.
However, BYU couldn’t execute in those key moments — whether in the so-called "blue zone," in key third-down situations, in executing a short field goal or during most other critical times.
The team is focused on changing things around. But words are one thing — actions are another.
No one recognizes that words are cheap more than coach Bronco Mendenhall, who was noticeably pensive in offering his response to a question about getting over the hump.
“I think it’s a matter of consistency and a matter of execution in practice on a day-in-and-day-out basis” Mendenhall offered. “So I think that is the next step. As we continue to play better and better teams, and more frequently, and on the road, the level we prepare and demonstrate preparedness in practice has to increase.”
Mendenhall and his staff have always been big on effort — implying that sheer effort from players is enough to get by most opponents. Given BYU's future scheduling of top opponents year in and year out, however, it seems simple effort won't be enough.
Mendenhall knows that better than anyone.
“Working hard is one thing. Actually executing and playing well while you’re playing hard in the week of practice is something else,” Mendenhall said. “So that’s the next part of it.”
NEVADA NEXT: BYU faces Nevada this Saturday on the road, which won't be considered a high-profile national contest by anyone. However, even though the Cougars won't receive the national attention they received in games against Wisconsin and Notre Dame, they are determined to fix the problems they faced in both contests.
“We’re looking forward to gaining momentum and seeing how well our team can play and how much improvement we can make in a short amount of time,” Mendenhall said about Saturday's game. “We have two games left and I’m anxious to play really well this week.”
"BLUE ZONE" BLUES: As one would expect, offensive execution inside the opponent's 20-yard line, an area dubbed the "blue zone" by the program, has been a point of emphasis this week during practices.
The Cougars advanced inside the Irish 20-yard line on four different occasions last week but came away with just one touchdown and two field goals.
According to Mendenhall, having a more physical rushing attack will lead to more touchdowns.
"The next step is translating all the rushing yards into blue zone scores," he said. "So the teams that focus on (quarterback) Taysom (Hill) or play max coverage to take away Cody (Hoffman) as much as possible — it is at their own peril."