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Provo • Perhaps coach Bronco Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae should have an arm wrestling match this week to determine who was most responsible for that fiasco on Friday night at Boise State. Both held themselves accountable for the big loss.
Special teams coach Kelly Poppinga could referee, since his unit struggled as well.
Mendenhall, who took the defensive play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Nick Howell last Monday, took "full and complete responsibility" for the 55-30 loss to the 6-2 Broncos immediately after the epic beatdown on the blue turf, but said he's not sure yet who will call the plays next Saturday at Middle Tennessee State (1:30 p.m. MDT, CBS Sports Network).
Moments later, Anae stepped in front of a flock of cameras and reporters under the bleachers at Albertsons Stadium and took the blame for the offense's woes and the much-questioned decision to throw the ball late in the first half.
"That was totally my fault," Anae said. "I put our team in a bad situation, and that was just not the right thing to do at that time. And that's on me."
Lost in the headlines about how Boise State shredded BYU's defense with a never-ending supply of weapons and some creative play-calling, racking up 637 yards, was the fact that BYU had just 322 yards after putting more than 600 on Nevada six days earlier.
Perhaps the BYU offense's most egregious blunder Friday night wasn't the meltdown at the end of the second quarter, but the way it started the game when the defense needed a breather against BSU's relentless attack.
The Cougars' first three drives netted a grand total of two yards (thanks to a pair of false starts) and were sandwiched around a muffed punt that gave the Broncos the ball at the BYU 13.
The Cougars had seemingly finally found some offensive rhythm with Christian Stewart under center in the Nevada game, but that unit took a step backwards against BSU. BYU didn't pick up a first down until 12:33 remained in the second quarter.
"Tonight we did not play well enough to beat many teams out there, on offense," Anae said. "The things we had practiced and set out to do, and designed as a coaching staff, were not good enough. And that's my fault for not getting these kids ready."
The defense is obviously a mess Mendenhall's grasping the play-calling reins shows that but the offense is without an identity as well. Clearly, Stewart cannot run the zone-read effectively because defenses don't give his running ability a sliver of the respect they gave to Taysom Hill.
"This isn't BYU football," Stewart said after completing 23 of 38 passes for 259 yards and a touchdown, with one really, really costly interception. "We are a winning program and a winning team. We're going to get back to winning. That's what we do and we are not OK with anything but that."
It was puzzling that star running back Jamaal Williams didn't enter the game until the second quarter, causing some to wonder if the delay was not injury-related. But coaches said it was, although Williams looked fine when he sprinted 17 yards for a touchdown a few plays after making his debut.
"There were questions on how long he would last," Anae said. "And to his credit, he fought hard and fought through a lot of pain, it looked like. I do see his role continuing to grow as his health permits."
So the Cougars are left in a familiar situation as they begin preparations for MTSU, which had a bye this weekend, and words such as resolve, resiliency, determination and heart are again being uttered for the fourth-straight week.
"I will say this: every coach and every player was equally responsible for what you saw tonight," Anae said. "That's going to be my resolve: be better coaches and to get our kids to play better."
It would be difficult to imagine them playing any worse.
Twitter: @drewjay Up
BYU at Middle Tennessee
O Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT
TV • CBS Sports Network