PROVO When he took the reins of BYU's football program in December 2004, Bronco Mendenhall vowed to restore the program's past glory though at the time the Cougars were coming off of three straight losing seasons. Months before his first game as a head coach, Mendenhall told the Deseret News, "If I do my job right, this place will be one of the most dominant programs in the country, as it once was."
His team's dominant performance in a 59-0 pulverizing of UCLA last Saturday showed, once again, how far BYU has come.
The Cougars are riding a 13-game winning streak, have won 16 consecutive Mountain West Conference games, are ranked No. 14 in The Associated Press poll, No. 11 in the coaches' poll and begin the hunt for a third consecutive conference championship Saturday when they host Wyoming. BYU has won 14 straight home games and they've won 24 of their last 26 games overall, dating back to the 2006 campaign.
In leaving the Bruins in ruins, the Cougars earned their most lopsided win over a team from a BCS-affiliated conference. It was a larger margin of victory than BYU's 1988 walloping of Texas, 47-6, in Provo; a 39-0 beating of Kansas State in 1977, also in Provo; a 38-8 pasting of Oregon in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl; and a 31-6 whipping of Oklahoma in the 1994 Copper Bowl.
Now, after that domination of UCLA, is BYU officially "back?"BYU has won five of its last six against Pac-10 opponents.
"I think we're putting together a pretty impressive run against a conference that many view as a solid conference in the Pac-10," Mendenhall said. "We're putting together a solid run of consecutive victories, not only at home but over time. I don't know what the threshold and marks are for everybody to view us now as 'we're back.' But the intrigue now is moving to whatever the next level is after intrigue. Maybe that's respect ... That will only continue if we're able to sustain what our program has done. That consistency is maybe why there has been some attention on our program."
NOT PERFECT YET: As well as BYU played in all phases of the game against UCLA, Mendenhall acknowledged his team can get better.
He pointed out the kick return squad allowed long returns a 38-yarder and a 39-yarder, respectively by the Bruins, explaining there are several freshman playing at those positions who are still learning. He added that his players need to hone their "position mastery" capabilities.
"There's still all sorts of room for improvement," Mendenhall said.
ON THE RANKINGS: When he was asked Monday morning about his team's current standing in the national polls, quarterback Max Hall said he didn't know where the Cougars were ranked.
Told that BYU had jumped four spots in both the AP and coaches' polls, Hall said, "I think that's good. That's where we should be after that performance we had on Saturday, dominating a very good UCLA team. We're capable of playing with anybody in the nation."
While everyone outside the program wants to talk about a possible berth to a BCS bowl, the Cougars reiterated that they're focused on winning the MWC first.
"Right now, our goal is to win the conference championship," Hall said. "If we do that, I think we'll be in good position to play in a BCS game at the end of the year. Which one that is, I don't know and I couldn't tell you. We just want to get to one of them."
MWC PLAYER OF THE WEEK: For the second straight week, Hall earned MWC offensive player of the week honors. Hall completed 27 of 35 passes for 271 yards and seven touchdowns in only 2 1/2 quarters of play."It feels good anytime you win an award. It's good to have that recognition," Hall said. "But you have to give credit to your teammates. You have to give credit to your offensive line, your receivers for making plays, to the defense giving me positions to score points and get us in good field position by causing turnovers. It's fun but we have a lot to do and a lot of work ahead of us."
Cougars on the air
No. 14 BYU (3-0, 0-0) vs. Wyoming (2-1, 0-1)
Saturday, 1 p.m.
TV: The mtn.
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