"It was a great game and a great effort on all parts," said Brown of BYU's game against UNLV. "Looking at our team it's just a lot of fun. We are so confident and everyone is relaxed and there is no stress or feelings of being tense among us. There is no getting on each other because everybody knows that if that person makes a mistake one down, they're going to come back and make up for it with four or five great plays."
Playing for one another and being accountable to each other is part of Bronco Mendenhall's coaching philosophy. Coach Mendenhall believes that when players are accountable to each other, their level of play increases, which leads to greater performances. Brown believes the results of this philosophy began to take full effect last spring.
"I'll tell you right now it started in the off season with us having a belief and realizing who we are," said Brown. "I think it started to get going last season but it really didn't take hold, and we were kind of up and down with understanding this. I feel we are now fully converted in the sense that this is our team and this is who we are. We developed that tie between us, and now our guys come out and play for the love of the game and for each other. We don't play for individual stats but just play to win. To me, that's the best stat you can have."
A key to the success of Coach Mendenhall's philosophy is opening the competition for every starting spot and then awarding the job to the best player.
"What Coach Mendenhall has done is he hasn't handed anything to anybody," Brown said. "What has really helped pull us all close together is that we all know that the best guys will be on the field. We all know that he made everyone on this team work and earn their position. We he first came in as our coach, no first or second string positions were given out to anyone. People had to work for their reward and earn the right to be given a position on the team, and in some cases there are no such things as starting positions. We don't have what are called starting receivers right now. In some aspects, we do have starting running backs but in most cases we don't. With the way that we've rotated the running backs so much, it's because many have shown they've earned the right to play. They've proven they are willing and able to make plays.
"It's a great feeling because you know that when a guy is in our offense, that he has proven to not only the coaches but to his teammates that he is fully capable and will do what it takes to win for each other. When you have that kind of confidence in knowing that the guy next to you is going to do what ever it takes, it really brings back the focus onto yourself to perform to the best of your abilities. You no longer have to worry about everyone else if they're going to do what it takes or not. It takes all the doubt out of your mind like is he really going to make this block, is he really going to get the job done. In previous years, we had to worry about other guy's commitment because some guys didn't have to earn the right to be on the field."
After players earn a starting spot, they are then given partial ownership of the team.
"Once you've made it on that front line it's up to you to get the job done and to make sure your team is playing at the highest level," said Brown. "You have to make sure you continue to prove yourself by making plays and executing, and with that, it makes you want to work hard for others so they can continue to be successful because now it's your team whether it's offense, defense or special teams. Everything just carries over."
Having proven yourself worthy of team ownership brings about greater responsibilities, a desire for greater production, expectations and rewards.
"John [Beck] calls the play and I'll say I'm lining up on this side or I'm lining up on that side, and sometimes I'll let guys line up where I'm supposed to be because they've earned the right," said Brown
Such was the case when BYU played against Tulsa on September 9th at Lavell Edwards Stadium. The call came in for Brown to receive the hand off with BYU within the scoring distance from within the 10 yard line. Seeing that fullback Manase Tonga had paid his dues and proven worthy to be on the field, Brown took matters into his own hands. The results was Manase Tonga scoring his first ever collegiate touchdown.
"You know, Manase did a great job for us as a freshman," smiled Brown. "He did all the dirty work: lead blocking, picking up blitzes whether I was in there or Fahu [Tahi] was in there. I knew he deserved to get a touchdown early in the season because he didn't get many carries as a freshman. Now that he has proven himself, we have a great rotation between us with him, Fui [Vakapuna] and me. He has proven himself by what he does during games and by how he practices and deserves to be rewarded on the field."
For true freshman running back Mike Hague, his chance to prove himself would come a bit later in the UNLV game after a little bit of prying towards his senior running back.
"I wanted Mike to earn his carries and he did," Brown said. "You have to come in and do some of the dirty work before you receive the rewards as a member of this great BYU offense. Mike is going to have a great career and a great year here at BYU because he is willing to put in the effort to prove he deserves ownership of this team."
And prove himself he did. Hague's 87-yard rushing touchdown was the longest by a BYU player since Oct. 4, 2003 when Ray Braithwaite ran for 95 yards against San Diego State.
"That's just Mike Hague showing off," chuckled Brown. "I told Mike that he was going to have a chance to have a lot of carries in the second half. He joked around with me when we were in on a couple of plays together. He was like, ‘Oh you're not going to let me get this run?' I just told him, ‘You're going to have plenty of carries in the third and fourth quarters, I promise you.' Then sure enough, he got his chance and did what he did those quarters. Mike will have plenty of more chances to carry the ball."
During BYU's recent game against UNLV, Brown's leadership and willingness to win football games again showed through over his personal interests in the huddle.
"During this past game against UNLV where John scored that touchdown, I had the chance to run the ball in," Brown said. "I just told John to ‘Chevy it' [quarterback sneak]. I saw on a few previous plays how our offensive line got a good push and how the defensive tackle was lined up. I just told John to Chevy it and he changed the play to that, and he was able to score that touchdown."
Curtis Brown had his second 100-yard rushing game of the season (Tulsa was the first). Brown rushed for 141 yards in the first half alone, and finished the game with a season-best 148 total rushing yards. Currently Brown is in second place all time at BYU with 2,717 total rushing yards, passing both Jeff Blanc (2,663) and Lakei Heimuli (2,710) last Saturday.
"Records are all fine and dandy and all that, but the only record that really matter to me is that win-loss record," Brown said. "That's how it is with all of us who earn the right to be a part of this great team."
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