PROVO — BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall spent five years, from 1998-2002, in Albuquerque as New Mexico's defensive coordinator.
This week, he's leading his Cougars to the New Mexico Bowl, where they'll face UTEP.
Of course, Mendenhall has been back to Albuquerque four times with BYU for games against the Lobos since 2003, posting a 4-0 record. This time, he'll be savoring the experience more than he has in previous return visits.
"I'm looking forward to going back. It's been a long time since I've been able to go back — not just for a regular game, but to maybe have an extra day to reminisce a little bit," Mendenhall said. "More than anything, I've had a lot of fun this year with this particular team down the stretch. I'm looking forward to being with them — not so much where we are, I'd just like to see them be successful one more time."
Last Thursday, Mendenhall went to Albuquerque to participate in a New Mexico Bowl news conference.
"I'm just a little bit nostalgic today," he said. "Normally when we come in to Albuquerque it's just to stay at the Marriott (hotel), play the game, then leave. I had a chance to actually drive around a little bit today and it's been fun."
UTEP is also familiar with Albuquerque and University Stadium as well. The Miners, who have been designated as the home team for the bowl game, beat New Mexico, 38-20, in Albuquerque on Oct. 2.
INJURY UPDATE: Offensive guard Braden Brown suffered an ankle sprain in the Utah game, but is expected to play in the New Mexico Bowl. Defensive lineman Vic So'oto, who injured his shoulder against the Utes, is also expected to play.
ALBUQUERQUE ACTIVITIES: New Mexico Bowl organizers have a few events for BYU and UTEP to participate in leading up to the game.
On Wednesday, the day the two teams arrive in Albuquerque, they will attend a welcome reception and enjoy a dinner at the Albuquerque Balloon Museum. On Thursday, they will go to the Santa Ana Star Casino for dinner and bowling.
On Friday, a press conference will be held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, immediately followed by the Kickoff Luncheon. That afternoon, at University Stadium, the bowl will stage a pep rally and battle of the bands. Kickoff for the game is noon on Saturday.
BOWL GAME FIRESIDE: BYU will hold its traditional pregame fireside on Dec. 17 at 7 p.m. It will be held at the Albuquerque West Stake Center, located at 4500 7 Bar Loop NW in Albuquerque.
FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL DOUBLEHEADERS: BYU's basketball team plays on the same afternoon as the New Mexico Bowl, at 3:30 (MT) against UCLA at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
Meanwhile, UTEP's hoops team plays a big game that night in El Paso against Texas Tech. A lot of Miner fans are planning on making the four-hour drive from El Paso to Albuquerque, then turning around and returning to El Paso for tipoff of the 8 p.m. basketball contest.
New Mexico Bowl
BYU (6-6) vs. UTEP (6-6)
Dec. 18, noon
University Stadium, Albuquerque
TV: ESPN Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM