PROVO — BYU freshman quarterback Jake Heaps isn't going to let a sore left (non-throwing) shoulder and rib — sustained in the loss to Utah on Nov. 27 — deter him from preparing for the New Mexico Bowl.
Heaps practiced Tuesday and "looked great," according to team trainer Kevin Morris.
"I've got a little bit of an injury going on, but this a good opportunity to rest it up, get some reps and be smart with it at the same time," Heaps said. "That's all I'm trying to do, and just make sure that I'm gaining from here and that as a team we're improving and getting ready for UTEP."
Heaps will be the first true freshman to start for the Cougars in a bowl game, and he's looking forward to it.
"It's awesome. It's an exciting opportunity," he said. "We're real proud of what we've done this year. We're real proud of the way we've finished this year and we hope to finish on a good note. I'm real proud of our guys on this team and the way they've fought and battled through adversity. It would be fitting to finish it off with a bowl win."
And, of course, Heaps would like to get the bad taste out of his mouth after falling to the Utes, 17-16.
"You look at the Utah game, we had a lot of crap thrown at us. We had a lot of adversity," he said. "But at the end of the game, we had a mentality that we were going to drive the ball right down the field and we put ourselves in position to win that game. That showed what kind of team we have. Obviously, you'd like to finish that drive off, but it ended the way it did. We can only progress and move forward from here. That's what we're trying to do with this game versus UTEP."
MENDENHALL-PRICE CONNECTION: When UTEP coach Mike Price was coaching at Weber State in the 1980s, one of his players was BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's older brother, Marty. At that time, Price also recruited Bronco Mendenhall, who was a star at Snow Junior College. Bronco ended up playing at Oregon State before going into coaching.
"I was being fairly highly recruited, but not rightly so, because I wasn't a very good player," the Cougars' coach recalled. "(Price is) a very good coach. He's had a lot of success in his career and is obviously well-respected."
MORE STAFF CHANGES?: During the season, Mendenhall shook up his defensive staff, firing defensive coordinator Jaime Hill and changing some of the responsibilities of assistants and graduate assistants.
Once the season concludes, Mendenhall said he will, as usual, meet with his assistant coaches and evaluate their performances from this season.
"Even though I might be doing some work personally on the evaluations, I won't be meeting with any our coaches until the bowl game is over," he said.
TICKET INFORMATION: Tickets are on sale for the New Mexico Bowl. Cougar Club members will receive priority seating on orders received through Dec. 7.
Non-Cougar Club orders will be filled by the date received.
Tickets are $35 and include a $5 per ticket fee. Tickets cannot be exchanged or refunded. Children age two and older require a ticket.
New Mexico Bowl
BYU (6-6) vs. UTEP (6-6)
Dec. 18, noon
University Stadium, Albuquerque
TV: ESPN Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company