PROVO — For BYU, it's the third trip to Texas this season. But a visit to the Lone Star State never gets old.
The Cougars depart today for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex as they get set for the Armed Forces Bowl Friday (10 a.m., MT, ESPN) against Tulsa.
"I'm going to have a lot of friends and family at the game," said wide receiver Ross Apo, an Arlington, Tex., native. "Going back to Texas is always pretty fun. It's always hot down there, so I always look forward to getting some sun."
BYU is 0-2 so far this season in its forays to Texas, but coach Bronco Mendenhall likes the idea of his team playing in a football-crazy state against a solid opponent.
"It's great. I like it. It's fun to play good teams," he said. "To me, it's not the location, it's who you're playing."
BYU traveled to Austin for the second game of the season at Texas, which resulted in a heartbreaking 17-16 loss to the Longhorns. In late October, the Cougars faced former Mountain West Conference rival TCU at Cowboys Stadium and fell to the Horned Frogs, 38-28.
"Getting to play Texas at Texas was a great experience," Mendenhall recalled. "Disappointed that we were one point short. Against TCU, we didn't quite overcome the mistakes we made, but it was a good team on a big stage … If there were games like that, you could go three, four, five or six more times because they're so distinct and different … Now we're back for a bowl game. Worthy opponents and good games. We get another good team, different stage, but it's great for our program."
The Armed Forces Bowl will be played at Gerald J. Ford Stadium and hosted by Southern Methodist University.
Friday's contest will mark the final collegiate game for wide receiver McKay Jacobson, who's from Southlake, Tex. "I'm excited," Jacobson said. "It's a little warmer down there than in Utah, so it should be good."
One of Jacobson's career highlights came when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass in a 14-13 upset of then-No. 3 Oklahoma in 2009 at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas.
"I have some good memories of playing Oklahoma and playing a couple of Texas and other teams down there," Jacobson said.
"It's pretty fitting that he gets to finish in Texas for his last game," Mendenhall said of Jacobson.
Quarterback Riley Nelson is not from Texas, but he can't wait to play in his first bowl game this weekend.
"The excitement comes from playing such a great team like Tulsa," he said. "They have a solid defense. They don't have a lot of tricks up their sleeves as far as their scheme and the way they line up. They don't try to fool you. But they do play disciplined, sound defense. Their offense is very good.. They're very balanced and they score a lot. They can do it both ways — with the big play and with the long drive."
Having played the regular-season finale at Hawaii, where there are plenty of distractions, will serve BYU well this week, Nelson said.
"Hawaii was a good precursor as far as being able to handle distractions," he said. "Having an extra day in Hawaii could have been a distraction, but the guys handled it really well and obviously it showed up on the field. Same thing with a bowl game. It's fun to be down there and all of the activities that go along with a bowl game. But we're down there to win a football game. I expect our guys to concentrate on the game and take advantage of every opportunity we have during bowl week to get an edge as far as preparation goes. I expect us to come out and play well."
Linebacker Brandon Ogletree, who's from McKinney, Tex., likes the idea of ending the season in his home state.32 comments on this story
"It's cool, man. I've been lucky enough to play down in Dallas a few times as a Cougar," he said. "It's exciting to be in front of friends and family, to go back to where I came from and play football there. It's cool."
Ogletree is also looking forward to playing a high-powered offense like Tulsa's.
"They execute well and they have a really good quarterback that we respect a lot and some good backs and receivers," he said. "They're the total package offensively. Hopefully we'll be up to the challenge of stopping them. It's going to be a fun matchup for us."
Armed Forces Bowl
Tulsa (8-4) vs. BYU (9-3)
Dec. 30, 10 a.m., MT
Ford Stadium, Dallas
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM