PROVO There are still two weeks to go before BYU faces Northern Iowa in the season-opener at LaVell Edwards Stadium, but the Cougars have already experienced plenty during the first two weeks of fall camp.
There have been some soap-operatic moments, like scenes out of a movie. It seemed fitting that coach Bronco Mendenhall canceled practice Thursday and took his team to watch the new Batman movie, "The Dark Knight." They needed a break from the drama and story lines they've produced the past couple of weeks.
Fourteen days ago, the Cougars opened camp with the news that star receiver Austin Collie would be out for a few weeks with a stress fracture in his leg. While he has been at every practice, he hasn't participated in drills.
A couple of days later, coach Bronco Mendenhall announced that projected starting center Tom Sorensen would be lost for 4-6 weeks with a shoulder injury, causing a shake-up on the offensive line that involved moving All-Mountain West Conference left tackle Dallas Reynolds to center, making way for Reynolds' younger brother, Matt, a freshman, to take over at left tackle.
There was an ESPN.com article that came out featuring some brash comments from freshman wide receiver O'Neill Chambers.
There was a minor altercation between defensive coordinator Jaime Hill and safety Jordan Pendleton that caused a stir on the Internet and on the sports radio airwaves.
So it came as a refreshing respite for the Cougars when they took off Thursday to watch a movie.
On Friday, they returned energized, though defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen said it had more to do with having a break than the movie they watched.
"It's not one you take a whole lot from," he said of "The Dark Knight," which he's seen three times now. "It's not a very meaningful movie for a football team. It was, if anything, something to boost team morale. We're in the middle of two-a-days and you're going up against the same person every day. I know what they're going to do, they know what I'm going to do. We start to get our tempers going a little bit. When coach does something like that, it lifts everybody's spirits.
"It gets us excited to finish the rest of camp. I definitely noticed in my attitude. You get irritated with the guys you go up against during fall camp and they get irritated with you. It's just how things go in fall camp. All of us felt a lot better (Friday) after that."
It marked the second straight season that Mendenhall opted to have his players watch a movie during fall camp. Why did he do it this time?
"The players have done exactly what they've been asked to do. I think we've gotten a lot accomplished," Mendenhall said. "I like the idea of renewal. When you have a break, I think we got more out of today than what we would have gotten. I think we'll be able to sustain and work at a higher level than without a day like that. Other teams might be looking at it saying, 'We're working harder than them.' But I would disagree. For the intensity we gained from one day's rest, I think we'll by far win the day. That's why we did it."
As for how he rated the movie, he said, "It wasn't my favorite. A little too much violence for me, quite frankly. The players liked it. But if it's a five-star scale, 2 1/2 (stars) is where I was."
Today, BYU is holding its second scrimmage of fall camp at Edwards Stadium.
BYU-TULANE?: The fourth nonconference opponent for BYU in 2009 could be Tulane. The Cougars just might open next season in New Orleans against the Green Wave.
"There are negotiations going on and there has been for six weeks," Mendenhall said. "It hasn't been confirmed yet, there is no contract. If it does happen, it would likely be an opener next year. I've learned enough about scheduling that until there is a signed contract, and sometimes even then, you don't play the team you have a contract with. Right now, it's under negotiation."
As part of the deal, if it goes through, Tulane would come to Provo for a game in a future season.
The Cougars are scheduled to face Arizona State in Tempe on Sept. 12, 2009, and Florida State in Provo on Sept. 19 (that date is according to nationalchamps.net). BYU and Tulane could possibly meet on Sept. 5 in the season-opener. In that case, the Cougars would start the season with a pair of road games. BYU is also scheduled to play Utah State at home next season.
How much say does Mendenhall have when it comes to scheduling?
"I'm not going to say complete say, but I've chosen every (nonconference) opponent to this point," Mendenhall said. "(Athletic Director) Tom (Holmoe) will come down and say, 'We have these options, who would you like to play?' I put it in front of the staff, I look at it in general how they're going to be. There's yet to be a game scheduled, nor do I think there ever will, without my approval or suggestion."Mendenhall added that the formula that works best for the program is scheduling two BCS teams and an opponent that will help BYU "gain confidence, stay healthy and generate momentum." He also said he wants to keep the rivalry with Utah State going.