BYU climbing back to the top of the mountain
So many gaudy statistics, so little time. Undefeated BYU, which hosts Wyoming on Saturday, is 2-0 against Pac-10 teams this season, including last weekend's paradigm-changing, 59-0 drubbing of UCLA, a result so surreal and stunning that it forced us to ask: which is the team from the BCS conference, and which the mid-major from the wrong side of the tracks?
In suffering its worst loss in eight decades, UCLA averaged .56 yards per rushing attempt. The Bruins seldom laid a glove on Cougars quarterback
It's okay to mock UCLA this week -- the Bruins and whichever grandee(s) in the athletic department had the idea to take a out a Hubris-drenched, preseason full-page ad in the
Don't know about that. What
Following last season's rash of giant-slayings, college football's great leveling continues unabated in 2008. After the Pac-10 went 0-4 against the Mountain West last weekend -- and 3-7 overall; after a string of sorry performances by teams from the ACC, Big Ten and Big East so far this season, the lines between the so-called power conferences and those campesinos on the wrong side of the divide have never been quite so blurred, so indistinct. After their slaughter of the Bruins, the Cougars jumped from 18th in the AP poll to 14th, where they remain underrated.
One of the things that makes the college game more interesting than the NFL -- I actually
The once-proud program was coming off its third straight losing season, a stretch of failure unequalled since the early 1960s. Mendenhall has returned the program to its former place by, among other things, embracing its uniqueness.
"It became clear to me that I was to make the football program as distinct and different as possible,"
There is a level of maturity and commitment among these players that simply doesn't exist at other programs. Above academics, above football, above his social life, the typical Cougar is instructed to "acknowledge and develop" his faith in the Mormon Church, as Mendenhall told
The guys who end up here have to
(Which goes a long way toward explaining another of the Cougars' eye-popping stats: 30 of the players are married.)
"We found that if we bring those type of kids," the coach told Rome, "we can ask the world of them."
More than 70 of the current players are returned missionaries. It's an interesting pro-and-con. Is the downside of taking a two-year break from football greater than the upside? Yes, guys lose weight and strength while going door to door, proselytizing for their faith. But fitness and foot speed come back.
Reynolds returned from his mission right around the time Mendenhall got the head job. He recalls the first day of spring ball in 2005. After busing the team to the foot of Y Mountain -- distinguished by the gigantic, century-old block "Y" overlooking the valley -- Mendenhall instructed the Cougars to hike up to the "Y".
"It looked so close from the bus," Reynolds recalls. "But it felt like it took forever to get there." The payoff was considerable: "You can see the campus, the stadium, the whole valley."
Mendenhall's simple message: The view from the top is nice, isn't it? So what do you say we get back there?
The Cougars walked down the mountain, then got to work climbing back up. Today they are but one of several mid-majors with BCS-busting potential, along with East Carolina, and fellow MWC members Utah and TCU. While no one knows which of them is most most deserving of a BCS berth, the UCLA Bruins should have some pretty strong opinions on the subject.