PROVO — Prior to last week's come-from-behind victory over San Jose State, Idaho had lost six straight games and had failed to score more than one offensive touchdown in a game in more than a month.
But as the Vandals, members of the Western Athletic Conference, visit BYU Saturday (7:15 p.m., MT, ESPN2), coach Bronco Mendenhall isn't taking them lightly.
"Any team we play is capable of beating us. I really believe that," said Mendenhall, whose team is coming off of a bye week. "In Division I sports, on any given Saturday, if you're not ready to play, you can be beat. My focus really isn't on our opponents nor has it ever been in my philosophical perspective."
Cougar center Terence Brown said his team is focused on getting better every week.
"If we don't take care of everything on our end, anyone can beat you, really," he said. "We're taking (the game) seriously. Our goal as a team is to keep improving. We don't think we've hit our peak yet. We'll keep pressing through and hopefully get some wins and have a good bowl game to go to."
A bleak season looked even bleaker for Idaho (2-7) last Saturday as it fell behind, 20-0, in the first half to the Spartans — the same team BYU defeated, 29-16, on Oct. 8.
Then the Vandal offense erupted for 22 points in the fourth quarter to record a 32-29 win at SJSU.
"I'm proud of our players, but more than anything, I'm happy for them," said Idaho coach Robb Akey. "We certainly made it as hard as we could. I'm not going to tell you everything was beautiful — but the score was."
How did Idaho manage to stage such an impressive rally after struggling through the first three quarters?
"I thought we did a good job of staying composed and staying positive on the sideline," Akey said. "But the players made the difference by making plays. The bottom line is you've got to stay positive and pay attention to what you can do. I had family members tell me they already had turned the TV off in the first quarter and walked away from the thing. It's a big-time credit to our players for continuing to fight through it."
Mendenhall noted that the Vandals have experienced "a lot of close losses" this season. Idaho lost at Virginia (21-20), at New Mexico State (31-24) and at home to Hawaii (16-14).
On the other hand, the Vandals have been blown out by Bowling Green (32-15), Texas A&M (37-7), and Fresno State (48-24).
"It was fun to see them pull one out against San Jose (State)," Mendenhall said. "They made a strong comeback and had a nice finish. … There are 3 or 4 of those types of games they've had, where they just didn't make one more play, or their season might be different. But from what I saw, they're playing hard and physical, and that's impressive."
Mendenhall added that this game against Idaho could be similar to his team's 13-point win over San Jose State.
As for Akey, he is looking forward to his team getting the opportunity to perform on national television.
"It's always good to be seen," he said. "Our players are going to be excited about it. Everyone we are recruiting is going to be watching this ballgame, and every time they see you on TV and in a positive fashion, it helps you in a big way. It's a great opportunity for us to showcase the type of football team we are capable of being."