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Provo • Bronco Mendenhall subscribes to the theory that there is no such thing as a good loss, but Saturday night's gut-wrenching 24-23 setback to No. 10 UCLA at the Rose Bowl did more good than harm to the Cougars' confidence level, the coach said after BYU dropped to 2-1.
"We are playing really quality opponents, and wherever they are, home or away, we are playing them right down to the end," Mendenhall said. "I like our team. I like how hard they try. They gave us a chance all the way to the end against a really good team."
Media pollsters didn't punish the Cougars too much for the last-second loss, dropping them from No. 19 to No. 22 in the Associated Press Top 25; they fell out of the Amway Coaches Poll. The Bruins (3-0) moved up to No. 9 in the AP Poll.
The Cougars' killer September schedule continues Saturday at unranked Michigan, which handled UNLV 28-7 at Michigan Stadium last week to improve to 2-1, holding the Rebels to 235 total yards in front of 108,683 fans.
"This is what [independence and scheduling moving forward] is going to be like," Mendenhall said. "A lot of close games, a lot of tough games, a lot of hard-fought games in front of a lot of people. That's what we are after."
BYU lost to UCLA because it couldn't stop the run, giving up 296 yards on the ground, including 219 to Paul Perkins. The junior became the first back to rush for more than 200 yards against BYU since 2001. Michigan gained 254 yards on the ground against UNLV.
The Cougars played without nose tackle Travis Tuiloma, who said on Twitter after the game that he's hoping to be ready this week for Michigan after suffering a knee injury in the 33-28 win at Nebraska two weeks ago. Mendenhall declined to use Tuiloma's absence as an excuse.
"I think [Perkins] was just very patient in finding holes, and then making us miss," Mendenhall said. "We missed a lot of tackles on him. So having Travis certainly helps and gives us a lot of other options. And I would love to have him back. I would just praise their back. He did a nice job."
Mendenhall's message to his team after losing a game it controlled for 55 minutes?
"I told them to stay together and we would get back to work," he said. "Simple."
The Cougars got their running game going in the second half, after another slow start, and finished with 161 yards on the ground. They got a career-high 149 of those yards from senior Adam Hine. But on the final series that ended with freshman quarterback Tanner Mangum getting picked off by Myles Jack on a desperation 4th-and-7 throw, former walk on Nate Carter got a carry that picked up just 3 yards on second-and-10.
"The job is just to make sure we are fresh," Anae said of the odd play call. "That was our whole deal with the running backs."
On the previous drive, which ended with a 32-yard field goal to give BYU a 23-17 lead with 5:39 remaining, Anae called for a handoff to Hine on third-and-5. It picked up just 2 yards.
"Keep in mind that we are breaking in a freshman quarterback," Anae said, after noting that last week against Boise State the conservative play-calling approach worked in the fourth quarter.
Receiver Mitchell Juergens, who had a big play called back when Ryker Mathews was flagged for holding, said the Cougars will bounce back after the loss, something they didn't do last year when they dropped four straight after a 4-0 start.
"Honestly, just because we are not undefeated, that doesn't mean it is a bad season," Juergens said. "I mean, it is one loss. We have the entire season ahead of us. We hope that BYU nation continues to have our back, and supports us, because we are really going to do some special things."
Their next chance comes Saturday at the Big House (noon MDT, ABC), where Michigan will be a five- or six-point favorite.
"From what I've seen so far [of the Cougars' morale after the loss], there are a lot of guys picking each other up, supporting each other, and we will be ready for Michigan," Juergens said.
No. 22 BYU at Michigan
P Saturday, noon MDT
TV • Ch. 4