Cougars Practice with a Chip on the Shoulder

In a game where the team did many things well, but did specific things very poorly, the Cougars look to build on the positives and rebound against conference opponents starting with the Air Force Academy this Saturday. As the Cougs begin preparation for the Falcons, they are practicing with a definite chip on their shoulders.

"We should have a chip on our shoulders after last week," said quarterback John Beck. "I know that I do. This is a return to conference play and this is what it's all about. I think we play better when we do have a chip on our shoulder, so I'm excited to get it going again this week."

Losing by a margin of 26 points on the surface may look like a hapless effort, but the Cougars were down by a mere 5 points midway through the third quarter which is something not lost on this team, "We had an opportunity to win," said Beck. "We just didn't take advantage of those opportunities. So yeah, seeing we didn't do that leaves that chip on your shoulder and we can't have that happen again."

For head coach Bronco Mendenhall, he feels that his team has a much better reference point and gauge on where the team is and notes it as a positive beginning conference play again after the team's road trip to South Bend. "It helped give more direction in the areas where we need to improve," said Mendenhall. "Our team still needs to improve and I think last week's game helped us crystallize those areas."

After giving up six touchdown passes from Irish Quarterback Brady Quinn along with 467 yards through the air, one can readily assume that improvements in the secondary and overall pass defense is at the forefront of Mendenhall's focus on improvement.

Said Mendenhall regarding improving his secondary and pass defense: "There's fundamentals improvement that needs to be addressed, I think there is technique improvement that needs to be addressed along with overall confidence. There also has to be more in their preparation beyond meetings and besides practices. At some point they have to do more than that to improve their game."

Mendenhall went on to state that he would like to see his secondary make more plays on the ball and for his better players to take chances in order to make plays as they did against Colorado State. Regarding any changes in the secondary Mendenhall stated that the personnel is what it is and that he had five different cornerbacks play last week and that his personnel will not change this coming week or for the rest of the season.

One game at a time

So is there a hangover from last week's game? Will the team be preparing any different in light of the home stretch in sight with an almost win-out scenario required over the last four games closing out the season? Will they bounce back after a loss or take the same attitude they did after a tough loss against TCU which was met the following week with the team's most under-whelming performance of the year against San Diego State?

Answered Beck: "We feel like we have to do everything to prepare for this week. The Notre Dame game happened and it's over, we have to move on. We have to take what we learned from the Notre Dame game, apply those lessons, keep that chip on our shoulders and take advantage of every single opportunity we have against Air Force and for the rest of the year."

So does the coaching staff prepare any different and work with the team to maintain that chip on their shoulders? "We didn't go against Notre Dame to learn, we went against them to win, so that's disappointing," answered Mendenhall. "We can use that disappointment as a coaching staff in helping prepare them to execute that much better this coming week."

Injuries and Departures

Junior receiver Joe Griffin has quit the team and will finish out the semester academically before planning to transfer to a Division II school for his senior season. Griffin will not practice or play again for the Cougars.

Some players are banged up such as Fahu Tahi with a slight AC strain, Spencer White with a slight hamstring pull, K.C. Bills with a quad contusion Breyon Jones lost a tip of his finger, but all are probable for next week's game.

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