"I think [a bye week] can be good and bad because after a loss like that you want to get back in and hit someone," Coleby Clawson said. "You want to get right back out there and take some frustrations out, but then again it's good because you can kind of sit back and see your mistakes and what we did wrong in the TCU game going into our next games. I also think it will be a good rest for everybody and it's been a long season for everyone so far."
Matt Bauman said that the bye week allows them to "get out of the daily grind that the season can bring. Coach Mendenhall has done a great job of managing it and taking the extra time to get us back to some of the basics: work on individual skills and some team stuff."
Next up on the Cougars' schedule are the Cowboys of Wyoming, and, with no disrespect, the Cougars don't necessarily need the extra time from a bye week to prepare for that contest. However, that's not the point. The bye week will be benefit the team by allowing extra time to improve. Clawson said this week the Cougars have scaled things back a bit.
"This week we've been focusing on our fundamentals and the position mastery aspects of our program," said Clawson.
"We've done some self evaluations and some midseason evaluations of everything and what we do well and what we don't do well and can improve on," said Max Hall. "It's been a good week so far."
"One of Coach Mendenhall's mentors and someone I really respect is John Wooden, who coached at UCLA," said Bauman. "His philosophy was [to] never watch film and never focus on the other team. It was about focusing on them and working on their execution and getting their stuff down right. They won a number of national championship and conference championships and played really well, so we take that approach, but maybe not quite that extreme, and take the extra time to kind of clean up the edges and work on our own schemes. With a cleaner program and a cleaner game plan, then we are able to go and start working on them at a higher level than we would have been."
"Yeah, especially at this point in the season when you're this far [the bye week] gives you a chance to go back and focus on your drops and a few other things," Max Hall said.
The extra time doesn't just benefit the starters, of course.
"Another good thing is a lot of the younger guys get a lot of reps," Clawson said. "So now they get more of a chance to develop within their positions and on the team. It kind of becomes a whole team thing. The ones and twos are still getting reps and doing all the position mastery stuff, and we still run a lot of team scrimmages, but a lot of the younger guys are doing that now too. They're now getting in and running our defense and our offense as opposed to running our scout team's offense and defense. So, we get better that way."
"I think it allows us to give the younger guys reps, but at the same time I'm still watching film on Wyoming," said Hall. "We're still game planning and getting ready. If anything it allows you to game plan more and get the things in the script that you want, and then we'll have an early Wyoming practice this week. It does give you a few extra days, but as you've seen we're not going terribly hard and we're getting the younger guys some more reps just so we can get healthy."
The extra week also allows the Cougars to heal up any bumps and bruises and anything else suffered along the way. A healthy team is a more physical and better-performing one.
"It's kind of nice to have the week off because a lot of guys are beat up a little bit and sick from the swine flu," said Hall. "It's nice to have the week off and get ready to go up and play in Laramie."
"We'll have McKay [Jacobson] back and I know I'll be shedding both of my braces this week, so it's good for us to get healthy and things like that," said Bauman.
However, that doesn't mean the extra week is a vacation.
"We also do a lot more conditioning," said Clawson. "We have more lifts this week and are going to have three lifts this week, so that's another thing that we go through during a bye week. I think as far as healing up the bumps and bruises [the bye week] allows you to get back, but my legs have been more sore now than they've been all year because I've been squatting so much during the bye week. I don't know about getting the legs completely back, but I'll feel good physically and stronger when we do begin playing again."
Though their focus has been more inward this week, the players nevertheless have increased time to prepare for the Cowboys.
"You have extra time to prepare, you have extra time to look at film and get a jump start on what they're doing," said Bauman. "You also have extra time to add in a few wrinkles that we haven't showed, especially on the offensive side of the ball. That's kind of what happened with San Diego because they had more time to implement it, so there's definitely an advantage as far as that goes."