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Provo • Brigham Young University football coach Bronco Mendenhall has faced his former team and employer before BYU pounded Oregon State 44-20 in the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl but he acknowledged Monday that this time it will be different.
This time it will be a homecoming of sorts in Corvallis, Ore., for Mendenhall, who played safety and linebacker for the Beavers in 1986 and 1987, was a team captain in 1987 and given the Leo Gribkoff Memorial Award as the team's most inspirational player that same year.
He returned to his alma mater twice, first as a graduate assistant in 1989-90 and then again as the school's defensive line coach in 1995, and co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach in 1996.
"I have mixed feelings in terms of a lot of memories going back to Oregon State," Mendenhall said at Monday's weekly BYU news conference. "It wasn't a time when Oregon State football was very strong, when I was there. And as a coach, it was a very difficult place to win. So, not a lot of success stories. A lot of work, and a lot of friendships that I still remember."
Mendenhall, 45, has not been back to Corvallis since 1996, when Jerry Pettibone was fired as coach after a 2-9 season and replaced by Mike Riley (who is now in his second stint as the Beavers' coach).
"It seems like so much time has gone and passed from then until now, it is hard to even go back to that place," Mendenhall said. "But I really don't have much choice now, because we are going back to that place. … And I am not quite sure how I feel about that."
Monday, Mendenhall repeated a familiar story from his days as a graduate assistant in Corvallis. He lived in his office all season, so when it was time to return home to Utah, he had forgotten where he parked his car last. He reported it stolen, and campus police found it in a school parking lot covered by leaves.
"I don't remember whether it started or not," he said. "The windshield wipers didn't work, and in Oregon, that is problematic."
Having said after Saturday's 29-16 win over San Jose State that Riley Nelson "most likely" would start at OSU, Mendenhall was asked again Monday if Nelson will be "your guy" this week.
"He will be the one that will have a chance on Saturday," Mendenhall said, then repeated that answer when asked if that meant Nelson would be the starter.
The coach acknowledged that there "is talk" of giving displaced starter Jake Heaps some playing time if Nelson starts again, but said it probably won't happen.
"So most likely, the starter, as long as [he is] playing well, [he is] going to play probably through the whole game," Mendenhall said.
BYU at Oregon State
P Saturday, 2 p.m. MDT
TV • Fox College Sports Pacific, KBYU