"The game at TCU showed us that we need to do some things a little better," said Harvey Unga. "I think we'll come out a lot better than we did last week. A lot of it has to do with the way we come out and approach games. Coach Anae addressed us and let us know that it wasn't just a team thing, but it was also the coaches. They're definitely doing their part to try and progress and help out the team. I believe what happens from here on out will tell a little bit about who we are what type of program we have."
"Coach Mendenhall has talked about moving forward," said Jan Jorgensen. "He talked about making changes and [how we must] learn from that game and move forward. If we learned what we needed to learn from that game and move forward, we can reach our potential. He also talked about if we don't make the changes, we can overlook what happened and not progress as a program. So Coach Mendenhall has talked about moving forward, but doing so with the right mentality."
A common theme heard from many of the players was how complacent the team may have become with the constant winning of football games. Coach Mendenhall often spoke to his charges about shedding the disposition of becoming entitled to wins and instead treating every team equally.
"I think the biggest thing we've learned is we can't become complacent," said Jorgensen. "I think that happened on both sides of the ball. We got a little complacent. We had beaten some Pac-10 teams and some people and felt that we had arrived and were pretty darn good, when in actuality we were near where we needed to be. I think we just thought we could cruise.
"Every single week we have to come out here and play our best regardless of the competition. We have to come to practice and put in the work and then go out on Saturdays and execute the way we know we can. We have to have emotion, we have to have enthusiasm and everything has to be perfect, and not only perfect, but also our attitudes have to be with a fanatical effort. Those are some of the things we learned."
This Saturday the Cougars will face a much improved UNLV team that over the years has steadily upgraded the talent on their roster at just about every position. Word out of the Cougar camp is UNLV is the most improved team in the conference.
"They're the most improved team from last year and are the most improved offense from last year," said Jorgensen. "We're hearing from our coaches that they've improved their team in just about every area."
Testing the Cougars' newfound mettle will be 5-foot-10-inch, 230-pound UNLV tailback Frank "The Tank" Summers.
"It's always good to practice gang tackling against a guy like that," said outside linebacker Coleby Clawson. "He's usually getting over four yards per carry and is a decent back that's hard to bring down. We have to make sure we are quick to the point of attack in order to put as many bodies on him as we can to gang tackle him. I think that's going to be key."
"Frank Summers is a hard guy to tackle," Jorgensen said. "He runs hard on every down and gives great effort every time he touches the ball. It makes it hard because he's so low to the ground. You have to gang tackle him and make sure you get everybody there to help. Everybody has to pursue to the ball and help one another out."
Summers is a virtual bowling ball with power and speed and averages 4.6 yards per carry. In seven games played this season, Summers has nearly as many touchdowns (5) as he racked up in 12 games last year (6), and is on track to break 1,000 yards for UNLV.
"He's a powerful runner," Clawson said. "He's going to try and run downfield and doesn't run that much to the outside. He's more of a between-the-tackles-type runner who tries to get downfield. We're going to need to gang tackle him to make sure he doesn't get more than three yards."
With speed, power and a lower center of gravity, Summers brings a challenge to middle linebackers looking to stop 230 pounds of straight-ahead speed. A logistical problem Summers brings to any given defense is that he opens things up for his teammates.
"It's difficult as long as there are receivers to defend as well," said BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall. "If you focus too much on Summers, then it's at the expense of the larger plays which can happen on the outside, so I think it's really a nice complement to their offense."
The Cougars will face a UNLV offense that is much similar to what they've faced against TCU and Utah. The spread option offense is a scheme that is becoming increasingly utilized by college coaches around the Mountain West Conference and the country.
"It's similar to some of the teams we just played," Clawson said. "They run a lot of speed option, and will do a lot of stuff in the shotgun. They don't do a whole lot under center. From what we've seen from their quarterback, he's the only one they have, so we don't expect him to get hit a lot. We expect him to pitch it more than try to run with the ball."
"They do run the option and option ride," Jorgensen said. "They do a lot of quick throwing when they do pass the ball. They like to spread you out and try to hit you quickly."
"It all goes back to Urban Meyer and the University of Utah in what Utah is currently doing and what UNLV is currently doing," said Coach Mendenhall. "In terms of what everyone is calling the spread, there are option elements and empty passing elements. So it's a nice combination with a lot of athleticism on the field that's spread from sideline to sideline. I think a lot of teams are going to it because they like the concept, and I think UNLV is getting better at it."
The empty passing element Coach Mendenhall mentioned as a feature within the UNLV offense is a schematic wrinkle that differs from the traditional option ride or spread option offenses.
"There is nobody in the backfield with five split receivers," Mendenhall said. "With a mobile quarterback, if you play to defend the pass, he'll scramble. If you play too much on containing him, you may be short in coverage."
Leading the Rebel option and passing attack will be sophomore quarterback Omar Clayton.
"They're the most improved offense in our league," said Mendenhall. "I think their quarterback is playing at a much higher level now than he did a year ago. They have a really nice balance and have been able to run the ball with Summers."
Although the Rebel offense has a tight end in 5-foot-11-inch, 235-pound Ryan Worthen, the offense doesn't utilize the position much as an offensive threat. Rather, the passing attack will feature four wide receivers.
"We know a little bit about their skill guys," Clawson said. "They have some pretty good wide receivers and like to throw the ball up and let those guys make some plays. They do have good skill guys, but maybe not quite as fast. We're expecting a good offense and our coaches have told us that they're the most improved offense in our conference. They're getting better every week. They've beaten ASU, who was ranked in the top 25."
"They have some pretty good receivers," Jorgensen said. "They have three really good ones. One is a freshman who is tall and can make some plays."
That freshman Jorgensen spoke of is 6-foot-3-inch, 185-pound Phillip Payne. Prior to coming to UNLV, Payne was a PrepStar West Coast All-Region nominee and was ranked as the No. 3 recruit in the state of Nevada by Scout.com. ESPN Insider had also ranked Payne as the No. 70 wide receiver prospect in the country.
"Then you have another good wide receiver in Casey Flair," Jorgensen said. "I think Flair is going to become the best wide receiver in UNLV history, so those are some very solid receivers right there."
"Their wide receiver [Flair] had a great game against ASU that week," said Clawson. "So they don't have just one guy to key on, and we've seen that they are an offense that has definitely improved, so we're not in the mood to take them lightly."
"They have really nice receivers that catch the ball well and are capable of doing a lot of nice things after the catch," Coach Mendenhall said. "So when they're scoring 27 points regardless of who they are playing, I think it shows a lot of improvement that Coach Sanford brought to the team."