BYU finishes run of power conference schools on schedule
When BYU plays Missouri at Kansas City on Saturday, it will be the fourth and final power-five conference team on the schedule.
So far, results have been mixed.
The Cougars (7-2) beat Nebraska in their opener, and lost to UCLA and Michigan. But they are 5-0 since the Michigan setback and will face a Tigers team that has trouble scoring lately.
''We've worked really hard through independence to put together a really compelling season-long schedule,'' coach Bronco Mendenhall said. ''To play an SEC opponent on the SEC Network in Arrowhead Stadium with a coach and program as good as Missouri, that's a great thing for our program.''
Missouri (4-5) is experiencing a tumultuous week entering its second meeting against BYU and first since the Cougars quarterbacked by Steve Young won the 1983 Holiday Bowl.
Coach Gary Pinkel stunned his program Friday by announcing that he will resign after the season because of health reasons, about six months after being diagnosed with lymphoma. Last weekend, Pinkel's players threatened to boycott the game over concerns about racial strife on campus.
After all the uncertainty, BYU is just happy that the game matching the high-scoring Cougars and the defensive-minded Tigers is a go. BYU is averaging 32.3 points per game and Missouri allows just 14.7.
''I think Missouri's been dealing with some really important, but also difficult issues,'' Mendenhall said. ''We're grateful that they're able to reach a resolution, or a beginning of a resolution might be more applicable to say.''
Things to watch for in this late-season matchup between BYU and Missouri, which needs two wins in its final three games to become eligible for a bowl:
MY MAN MITCH
BYU wide receiver Mitch Matthews is quarterback Tanner Mangum's primary target. The 6-foot-6, 215-pound Matthews has a team-best 40 catches for 499 yards and nine of the team's 17 receiving touchdowns.
''They're a very good offensive football team,'' Pinkel said of the Cougars. ''Their offensive line is big. Their receivers are big. They generate a lot of yards and a lot of points.''
Missouri tailback Russell Hansbrough was on the preseason Maxwell Award watch list, but has been dogged by injuries beginning with a sprained ankle on his first carry of the season. Hansbrough, a 1,000-yard rusher last season, has 264 yards on 68 carries and scored his first touchdown of the season last Thursday in a 31-13 loss to Mississippi State. That score ended the Tigers' slump of three consecutive games without a touchdown.
Six BYU players have scored rushing touchdowns. Algernon Brown leads the balanced attack with 88 carries for 490 yards and 8 TDs. He also has eight receptions for 43 yards including a 22-yard touchdown catch.
Missouri will don special jerseys for Saturday's game at Arrowhead Stadium, something it's done before. In 2007, then fourth-ranked Missouri defeated then No. 2 Kansas 35-28 at Arrowhead wearing gold pants and white jerseys. This weekend, they'll be wearing white jerseys and white pants with black, anthracite and chrome highlights, as well as chrome helmets and facemasks.
TIME OF TURMOIL
Missouri's campus experienced a string of racially motivated incidents this semester, including a swastika drawn with feces in a dormitory and slurs being shouted at the student body president. The players boycotted in support of a graduate student's hunger strike. The university system president resigned and the chancellor announced plans to step down in a year.
''I'm proud to be a part of it,'' Missouri cornerback Logan Cheadle said. ''I think it's a big deal. I think it just goes to show what I already knew, that coach Pinkel cares about us as more than just football players but as young men.''
AP freelance writer Jade Washburn contributed to this report from Columbia, Mo.