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Provo • After their crushing 31-0 loss to Michigan on Saturday afternoon at the Big House, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and offensive coordinator Robert Anae spoke as if the Cougars were 0-4 instead of 2-2.
The embarrassing performance in front of 108,940 fans and a national television audience seemingly erased the momentum and confidence garnered from last-minute wins over Nebraska and Boise State and a competitive showing against UCLA, which pounded Arizona 42-14 Saturday night after needing a fourth-quarter drive to beat BYU.
"As far as we are concerned, this starts our season over again," Mendenhall said, describing the BYU locker room as "deflated, somber and ... soul-searching."
Mendenhall used phrases such as "reshape and remold" and "begin a new season" and "recapture a different direction" to describe what's next for the Cougars, who play host to 2-2 Connecticut on Friday at LaVell Edwards Stadium (8:15 p.m., ESPN2).
After his offense was able to muster just 105 yards against the Wolverines, the lowest output for a BYU offense in 41 years, Anae said the Cougars "need to get back to the drawing board" and challenge themselves to find some leaders, especially on offense. Clearly, the program's confidence was rocked, as the sound of Michigan's incessantly played "Hail to the Victors" song became hell for the visitors from the first snap to the last, by Anae's description.
"It was hesitate, just kind of stand around and spectate," Anae said. "And that's [bad] coaching, that is 100 percent coaching. … We are starting from ground zero to find out who we are, and what we can do."
That starts at the quarterback position, as reality finally caught up to freshman Tanner Mangum and his efforts to replace the injured Taysom Hill. He looked rattled, confused and lost much of the day against the Wolverines, exacerbated by the fact that his receivers simply could not get open.
"It was a pretty graphic and hard lesson [for him] today," Mendenhall said, when asked how Mangum performed in just his third college start.
The Cougars have more injury concerns, too, after playing again without top running back Algie Brown (knee) and nose tackle Travis Tuiloma (knee). Five starters left the game with injuries and could not finish, most notably running back Adam Hine, who suffered an ankle injury after a 5-yard reception early in the third quarter.
"There will be defining moments coming up, and we don't have very much time," Mendenhall said. "I would love to see what this team, and our staff, and this program, is really made of. These kinds of moments give it to you. You don't see those on the Hail Mary wins. … You find that out when you are at the bottom. And that's where I feel I am right now, as the coach."
Mendenhall said coaches will try to build on the defense's performance in the second half, when Michigan was held to 131 yards and no points UM coach Jim Harbaugh backed off the throttle a bit even though cornerbacks Micah Hanneman and Michael Davis and linebacker Harvey Langi had left the game with injuries.
"Michigan seized the day, and we didn't," Mendenhall said. "Nor did I have our team prepared to do that. I challenged our team at halftime, and I was glad to see some of the players play with more heart and resiliency and execute, and kinda dig a little deeper. And that was the most gratifying thing of the day, to me, to see a few key individuals stand out. I have got to continue to develop our team to where we will do that teamwide, not when the game is close, but regardless of circumstance."
Mendenhall reluctantly agreed that playing four straight opponents that were favored to beat them, including three on the road, caught up to the Cougars.
"I would have to say yes to that, but I don't want to right now, because I don't want any way around my ownership of how we played," he said. "I feel it, so maybe the team did. But I certainly don't want that to be what is designated as the reason."
Connecticut at BYU
P Friday, 8:15 p.m. TV • ESPN2