Mendenhall swings the hammer, talks to media

Following Wednesday's practice, Coach Mendenhall went through conditioning drills with his players. He swung a sledgehammer against a giant tire, then ran through the other conditioning drills with his team, completing each and every one. One finished, he met with the media, still breathing heavily from the exercise course.

So how was it running through and completing the grueling after-practice conditioning course?

"It was bittersweet," Mendenhall said. "Sweet in that I completed it, bitter pretty much every second of the way."

This Saturday, BYU will be playing a Pac-12 school in Oregon State. Mendenhall said he wants to play many Pac-12 teams due to their location, but he also wants to play top schools from all conferences if he can.

"I would like to play schools from every major conference," Mendenhall said. "I'd love to play Big 12, I'd love to play SEC, I'd love to play Pac-12, I'd like to play Big 10. Part of being independent is I want the country to see us, not only on TV but in person."

The Pac-12 has a rule that Pac-12s referees officiate home games, instead of away games like with all other conferences.

"Don't have much choice," Mendenhall said about dealing with the Pac-12 officiating rule. "You know, it makes sense for us to play those schools that they play, so that's part of their rules. You know, it makes sense for us because it's a regional game. It seems like it would make more sense to have an official agreement whether that be neutral or official."

The Cougars are currently ranked 43rd nationally in total defense. The defense has shown great intensity in some quarters, but not so much in others. Mendenhall addressed the difficulties of maintaining that standard throughout four straight quarters.

"The bottom line, with the exception of one game, we've managed the points well enough to have a great chance in every game, and so ultimately I default to that. But, as you've mentioned, there are moments of dominance, moments of solid play and then moments of lapses. So the key is, with six weeks to go in the remainder of the regular season, to help them get closer to their potential from quarter one to quarter four. I think its coming but it's certainly not from play one to play 70 yet."

Uani Unga transferred from Oregon State to BYU to be in a more family friendly environment that's more conducive to raising a child. Is having a former Oregon State playing on the team more helpful?

"You know, I don't know," Mendenhall said. "His brother is on the team at Oregon State, but I haven't talked to him about anything that's going on over there, nor do I intend to. I don't know if it would be right to put him in the position of being in between, so we'll just prepare like we always do and he's just happy to be on our team."

Unga has a lot of family in Provo and so does his wife, who is the daughter of a bishop in a local ward in Provo. While BYU receives LDS transfers from other colleges from time to time, not many transfer away from BYU to other schools after attending the university. Those that weren't offered a scholarship by BYU often can't wait to play the school they wish they had an offer from.

"Not so much with kids that have gone to other places and then come to BYU, but kids that we didn't recruit, or didn't offer a scholarship to but got an offer elsewhere, they are similar to how I was. They can't wait to come back and play BYU."

Unga has been doing very well since his transfer from Oregon State. In fact, he was named the defensive scout team player of the week last week.

"He's coming along really well," Mendenhall said. "He was the scout player a week ago and will play for us next year, and we're just waiting for him to be eligible. You know, it just takes a year with the transfer."

Coach Mendenhall shared a few things that he feels need to happen in order for his team to come away with the victory this Saturday.

"My biggest concern right now is holding onto the ball, protecting the ball, so making progress offensively about holding on to it. Not giving up big plays defensively. They have some good skill and they have some schemes that pretty much have gotten the ball over the top everyone they've played. After having said all that, if we hold onto the ball more than they do, and if our starting field position exceeds that of theirs, I think the game is close enough and I think the talent is equal enough to determine it."


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