Lessons Learned and Applied Against the Lobos

Five weeks into the 2005 season, Cougar players and coaches alike have learned their share of lessons, but the application of those lessons was not always apparent. That changed last Saturday against New Mexico.

"I expected a lot from [the players] from the very beginning," said Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall. "In meeting those expectations they just had to decide whether it was worth it or not and because of the investment they had to make I think we're learning how to overcome hardship and adversity."

Mendenhall went on to state that what the team went through against the Lobos to earn that victory was a huge step in regards to his team's development. Said Mendenhall regarding his team's resolve and commitment to do whatever it takes to win football games following Saturday's games: "I think it's deeper now. You have to dig down deep before you decide if it's really worth it or not and I think this team is unified and poised for their next challenge, and that's significant."

One word that is thrown about with regularity during a Mendenhall practice is "finish." It indeed has become a buzz-word in the drills Mendenhall has his players run. Learning how to finish games and put a team away or come back from a deficit to pull out a game is something middle linebacker Cameron Jensen has seen develop since the team's loss against TCU.

Said Jensen: "The biggest reason we finished strong defensively is because we just wanted it more than we did against TCU. At least that's what I felt. We definitely didn't play well during the first half for whatever reason, but we did in the second half keeping them out of the end zone toward the end. Now we just need to work on putting and entire game together."

BYU's quarterback noticed the effort of the defense and was quick to heap praise upon his teammates on the other side of the ball. "The defense saved the game for us and allowed us to come back," said Beck. "If they don't keep them out of the end zone toward the end after I made a huge error throwing that interception, then we don't win the game. I loved that game and how we won it because I thought it was really a team effort both offensively and defensively. Everyone contributed."

"Guys were making plays when it counted," said Jensen. "Guys like Nate Soelberg came up huge. On that third down if he doesn't jump that screen pass and make the tackle, then he would have made big yards and possibly scored. He had nothing behind him since we brought almost everyone on a blitz. If he doesn't make that tackle, then I don't think we win that game. But that's just one example. Everyone stepped up."

One of the more noticable examples of a player stepping up was safety K.C. Bills forcing a fumble when the Lobos had the ball 10 yards away from the goal line and it looked like BYU's defense could not do much to prevent the score. "K.C. just simply laid out and got his hand on the ball," said Jensen. "If New Mexico goes in and scores there, then that's 31 points. So was it important? It was vital. It just serves as an example that you never know. If you're in there battling on every play then something will happen that will make you win the game. It was a valuable lesson for us as we continue in the conference race.

"Just making plays and doing whatever it takes to make those plays regardless of the situation is what we need to take away from Saturday's game. Against TCU the effort and resolve wasn't there for whatever reason toward the end and I don't even want to think about the San Diego State game. That game is over. We finished strong against New Mexico and that's how we aim to play from here on out."

With a come from behind win that included a couple of two-minute drives by the offense, a two-point conversion and a fourth down stop, Mendenhall felt that his team has a lot to build on. "Those things don't happen unless your team believes in what you're doing and is completely invested," said the coach. "I thought they played with their heart and I thought they played unified. They played as hard as I've seen a team play collectively, not as well, but certainly as hard."

Tahi Out, Semanoff and Tonga In

With the loss of Fahu Tahi for Saturday's game, Joe Semanoff and Manase Tonga stepped in to fill the void. Both came up with a big touchdown and third-down conversion respectively.

Said Mendenhall regarding their collective performance: "I thought it was awesome. I love players who are ready, prepared and then perform when they're given an opportunity and they [Semanoff and Tonga] did that in what was a principle-based decision, and it verified to me that you do what is right regardless of how you think it may play out. It was a teachable lesson for our team and all players involved from Fahu, to Manasse and Joe.

Beck Gets a "B"

After hearing many complaints for giving Quarterback John Beck a mere A- following his stellar performance on Saturday I learned that their were harsher critics of Beck's almost performance against the Lobos.

"Coach Doman gave me a B," said Beck. "It was a high "B," but that's what he gave me and that's probably what I deserved. I made some errors in the pocket and I need to work on those. Joe Montana once said that to be successful you have to do at least 95% of things right as a quarterback. I probably did 88% things right on Saturday given my B grade and that's not good enough if I'm to insure that I do everything I can to help this team win. I didn't and I need to improve."

Among those things he will work on in preparation for Saturday's match-up against the Colorado State Rams is poise in the pocket. "Coach Doman has stressed that a lot so far this week as we watched film," said Beck. "I need to show more poise in the pocket and that's my focus this week. I have to find ways to improve in every facet of my game because if I don't, then I'll get worse. I need to build on whatever I did right and so does everyone else."

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