PROVO Publicly, he's stoic as a Mount Rushmore mug.
So, it was fun Thursday night, in the heat of battling TCU, to see BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall rushing an official to get a timeout, trying some gamesmanship to ice Horned Frog field-goal kicker Chris Manfredini.
Then doing it again.
Manfredini, the nation's top PAT kicker, didn't let it get to him, but the point was made by Mendenhall. He was into this one and wanted it badly. Moments before, Mendenhall challenged a pass interference call on safety Corby Hodkiss. And after further review, officials overruled the call on the field due to a tipped pass before it got to the TCU receiver.
The fire, the angst, the emotion, the razor edge, it was all there in BYU's win over TCU. And it started with the head man, given a short week.
What the public sees in Mendenhall is not exactly what BYU's players get in private, according to senior linebacker Kelly Poppinga. "He can show it," Poppinga said.
What makes Mendenhall's coaching work, said Poppinga is his even-keel consistency. Like a Swiss watch, it ticks along in rhythm, ever the same, from daily practice, to pregame, post-game, win or lose.
"He's never up or down, just the same, and our team feeds off that," Poppinga said. "It makes us consistent too."
That's apparently what BYU football has become these days. Its fans, teased after an 11-2 season a year ago for daring to hope and believe the glory days were
back under Mendenhall ... well, they might be right after all.
Three years after some made fun of Mendenhall for quoting scripture at a press conference and having his team lie down on the stadium grass while listening to sounds of the good old days ... well, it may have worked too.
Consistency. Even keel. It's what LaVell Edwards displayed back in the day. Bronco's caught it.
The record speaks for itself.
Today, with games at Wyoming and San Diego State and against the Utes at home remaining, the Cougars have won 17 of their last 19. They've won 14 straight MWC games, equaling a Cougar league win streak in the WAC dating from Nov. 15, 1983, to Oct. 19, 1985 the days of Steve Young and Robbie Bosco.
The TCU win gave BYU its 11th straight win at home, and it's 14-3 on this turf since Mendenhall had his team face up on the field, listening to big plays from the days of yore.
The Cougars stand 7-2 and a perfect 5-0 in the MWC and beat the preseason league favorite in TCU from beginning to end. Even with two turnovers. Better defense. Better offense. Better execution on both sides and more consistency from A to Z.
Somebody argue Mendenhall doesn't have something Midas going.
The Horned Frogs are a fine football team. They are the fastest football players in this league by far. But the 37-0 victors over what was the second-best team in the league a week ago (New Mexico) struggled to get two touchdowns in Provo.
Defensively, TCU's perceived (by most experts and publications) best talent in the league struggled to stop sophomore quarterback Max Hall with its defense ranked No. 5 nationally in pass efficiency (96.5) Hall's efficiency rating stood at 120.27, and he can say he now has 11 percent of the touchdown passes thrown against the Frogs, who have given up just nine this year.
When BYU needed to convert third downs on TCU's No. 9-ranked defense at stopping offenses on third down (29.5 percent), the Cougars converted 13 of 20, a 65 percent success rate.
When BYU's defense needed big plays, Poppinga got a huge interception return, and David Nixon and Bryan Kehl got monster sacks.
TCU, who has NFL-caliber corners and safeties, could not stop a 4.6 speed receiver in Austin Collie (four catches for 109 yards), and the Frog defenders had no answer for the Cougar tight ends. When BYU needed to run the ball near the goal line, Harvey Unga ran in from 15 and 3 yards out.
Against a defense that had allowed just 346 yards (173 per game) in its last two contests and gave up just 227 in a loss to Utah, the BYU sophomores (Hall, Collie, Dennis Pitta) and freshman (Unga) helped rack up 417.
No MWC team has ever scored more than 28 on TCU in three years. BYU's got 50, 31 and took a knee at the end at the TCU 4 with 27 on the board Thursday night.
A BYU 25-year-old BYU fan would be unable to fully describe what it was like back in the early 1980s, the so-called glory days.Hint: What Mendenhall's got right now is the Cliff's Notes version.
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