Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Brigham Young Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall runs onto the field during the Cougar season opener with Ole Miss in Oxford, Miss Saturday, Sept. 3, 2011.

PROVO — So far, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall is enjoying his program's new independent status.

The Cougars are nine games into their inaugural season as an independent and Mendenhall said there are plenty of positives that have resulted from independence.

"I'm happy from a number of perspectives. I'm happy for the chance to travel to new places. That's been really fun," Mendenhall said, adding that he loves the widespread exposure his team has received after playing seven games on the ESPN family of networks, which he estimated exceeds the previous six years of exposure combined. "I like the chance to control, as much as possible, our scheduling, even though that's difficult. Those things are all positive."

The downside of independence?

"If there's anything negative, it would be the difficulty of late-season scheduling," said Mendenhall, whose team has two byes in the month of November. "But the farther out we go, the more it seems that teams are willing to do that. It's just that the first year with the shortened window it was hard. I think it will become easier over time. That's my prediction."

LATE NIGHT AT LES: BYU's final two home games, against Idaho on Saturday (7:15 p.m.) and next week against New Mexico State (8:15), will feature late kickoff times, as dictated by ESPN.

What about the fans who have to endure cold temperatures and a late start?

"A night game is just as good as going to a movie, if not better. Certainly, the entertainment, at least in my opinion based on what I've seen recently, would be better than a movie," Mendenhall said. "It's a great chance to support our team in a season where we have seven home games. We have a great chance down the stretch to win a lot of football games. We've already had a strong season to this point. I think our fans are loyal enough to where they'll be there."

BYU'S TRIBUTE TO VETERANS: The BYU athletic department, including members of the administration and the football team, is hosting a special tribute to the Armed Forces Friday at 7 p.m. at the Smith Fieldhouse.

Mendenhall, former Cougar tight end and current associate athletic director Chad Lewis and members of the football team are scheduled to take part in the event. Lewis, who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last spring with wounded war veterans last spring, will talk about his experiences.

BYUtv will air the program on a tape-delay basis right after the BYU women's basketball game against Duke at approximately 9 p.m.

KARIYA HONORED: Senior running back Bryan Kariya was named to the Capital One Academic All-District 8 Team on Thursday.

Kariya, a Chinese major and business management minor with a 3.90 GPA, plans to attend dental school upon graduation. Last year, he was the only running back from an FBS school to earn Academic All-America recognition.

LOST FOR THE SEASON: To this point, the Cougars have had four players go down with season-ending injuries. Fullback Iona Pritchard suffered a leg injury during fall camp; tight end Devin Mahina sustained a neck injury prior to the season-opener at Ole Miss; tight end Richard Wilson underwent knee surgery after the Oregon State game; and linebacker Jordan Pendleton had knee surgery on Tuesday.