BYU football: Late start, bad weather, lousy foe could mean small crowd
College football • Mendenhall convinced true-blue Cougar fans will show up, regardless.
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Provo • A late start, predicted temperatures in the 30s with the chance of rain or snow, and a low-profile opponent with a horrible record has some BYU football officials worrying that Saturday's game (8:15 p.m., ESPNU) against 1-8 Idaho will produce the smallest crowd since LaVell Edwards Stadium was expanded in 1982.

Coach Bronco Mendenhall isn't among them, however.

"I think the late start, and as cold as it will be [is cause to empathize with fans who stay away]," Mendenhall said. "I think the ones who are Cougar blue deep in their hearts are the ones that will be there, and I will applaud them."

Mendenhall said he wasn't aware a huge temperature drop, accompanied by a winter storm, was expected this weekend until his wife mentioned it Wednesday. While several players, including cornerback Preston Hadley, said they aren't fans of playing in cold weather, Mendenhall said it makes no difference to him.

"If you don't play well, that will be a reason. If you do, the other team will have a reason," Mendenhall said. "You just play."

As for the late start, set by ESPN, Mendenhall said he sympathizes with people who don't like to stay up late — like himself.

"I mean, I am usually in bed at 8," he said. "So if I am going to be up, we might as well play a game."

Mendenhall's 100th game

Saturday's game marks Mendenhall's 100th as BYU's head coach. With a 71-28 record, he is second in total wins and games coached behind LaVell Edwards, who was 257-101-3.

Edwards was 69-30-1 through 100 games.

"It surprised me. I didn't know I would make it to 100, so yeah, it seems like a long time," Mendenhall said.

Asked what the odds are that he will make it to 200, he quipped: "Slim."

Why not Wazzu?

Mendenhall confirmed Wednesday that the Cougars were able to schedule a game at Virginia to open the 2013 season because Washington State wanted out of a contracted game for 2013, which was supposed to be the back end of a home-and-home agreement.

"Well, that's really up to [Wazzu]," he said when asked if BYU will go to Pullman in a couple of years. "They chose to not want the game. So I don't know if we will go back there or not."

Thursday, Washington State answered that question, announcing that it has replaced BYU on its 2013 schedule with Southern Utah University and will play host to BYU in 2019.

Briefly

Mendenhall said offensive linemen Braden Hansen (groin tear) and Brock Stringham (tonsillitis) are probably a week away from returning to action. He said backup running back Adam Hine (knee) has practiced this week and is possible for Saturday. … Idaho knocked BYU quarterback Riley Nelson out of the game with rib and lung injuries in last year's game, a 42-7 BYU win. … Former Utah Blaze quarterback Jason Gesser, 33, is Idaho's interim coach after Robb Akey was fired two weeks ago.

drew@sltrib.com

Twitter: @drewjay