PROVO, Utah — Brigham Young craved the exposure that came with an independent schedule and big-money ESPN deal.
Losing big-time to an instate rival last week wasn't part of the plan.
"A lot of people saw that and it might have damaged our credibility," Cougars coach Bronco Mendenhall said, referring to Saturday's nationally televised 54-10 loss at home to Utah. "That takes time to rebuild."
The rebuilding starts Friday night against a Central Florida team embarrassed in a 17-10 road loss to Florida International University.
The Friday kickoff, again tied to the TV deal, gives both teams one less day to prepare but is a welcome chance to move on earlier.
"I wish we could play right now," BYU quarterback Jake Heaps said.
He also wishes he had a running game to take some of the heat off, and help BYU (1-2) live up to the grand expectations that came after leaving the Mountain West Conference.
"You look at the potential of our team and it's just really frustrating to be where we're at right now," Heaps said. "We have such a great opportunity to have an explosive offense and we just haven't shown that yet."
In the opener, BYU beat Ole Miss, 14-13, thanks to a defensive score, and managed just one touchdown in a 17-16 loss to Texas, now ranked 19th. Against Utah, Heaps passed for a career-high 305 yards and a touchdown. But he also fumbled twice and tossed his fourth interception of the year.
Next up is a Central Florida team ranked No. 1 nationally against the pass (allowing 93.7 yards a game).
"I have to perform, do better," said Heaps, who broke every BYU freshman record in 2010 with 15 touchdowns and 2,316 yards passing.
His counterpart Friday will be another sophomore, Jeff Godfrey, who quickly made a name for himself as a freshman and was voted Conference-USA Freshman of the Year.
Unlike Heaps, Godfrey is a threat to throw and run for Central Florida (2-1).
Godfrey has 156 yards rushing in three games — 11 yards more than BYU has as an entire team. He also has six rushing touchdowns; BYU has none. And Godfrey showed he can do it through the air, going 20 of 25 for 187 yards and no interceptions in a 30-3 win over Boston College.
"They have a great quarterback," BYU cornerback Corby Eason said. "He can run the ball and pass the ball. ...Once we stop him, I don't believe no one else can beat us."
The Cougars just have to make sure they don't beat themselves, what with 10 turnovers in three games.
And it would help if they could average more than 1.9 yards a carry.
Last year, the trio of J.J. Di Luigi, Bryan Kariya and Joshua Quezada averaged 151 yards a game. This year they are averaging 64, and will face a UCF defense ranked 13th against the run (72.3 yards).
Mendenhall acknowledged he was concerned about the run game, and vowed to take a closer look at the play design and how the backs are being used. But he expressed confidence in offensive coordinator Brandon Doman and expected Doman would continue calling plays from the sideline, rather than move up to the press box.
On Monday, Heaps had a long meeting with Doman and said afterward he expects the Utah loss will bring them and the team closer.
"If it tears you apart, it's going to be a long season," Heaps said.
Nothing figures to come easy.
The Knights are riding a 10-game winning streak when coming off a loss.
BYU, however, hasn't dropped back-to-back home games in consecutive weeks since 2003, when they lost to Stanford and Air Force.
Of course, until the pounding Saturday by Utah, they hadn't lost at home to an instate school since 2005.
So history isn't always a good predictor.
Heaps is tired of talking about the past.
"We've done enough talking," he said. "It's time to show what we're capable of, and what kind of football team we have."
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company