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Provo • When it came to preparation for bowl games, LaVell Edwards and Bronco Mendenhall were both dogged by myths that weren't really true, according to assistants who worked under both successful BYU football coaches.
Edwards was said to not take postseason games seriously. Mendenhall was said to not fully utilize all the practices available to him.
"Those aren't just myths, they are way, way out there myths," Lance Reynolds said in 2011, having been an assistant under both coaches. "Both are totally not true."
Edwards was 7-14-1 in bowl games but tried hard to win them all, Ty Detmer confirmed Monday, while Mendenhall also put an emphasis on winning bowl games when he arrived in 2005. Mendenhall went 6-5, losing his last three after a great start.
There is no specific limit on the number of practices a team can hold while preparing for a bowl game, news that may surprise some Mendenhall detractors.Bowl practices are not capped at 15, which is the number of practices allowed in the spring. Rather, standard NCAA guidelines apply: Practice rules for bowl-bound teams are the same as in the regular season, meaning that athletic activities can be a maximum of four hours per day and 20 hours per week.
So along comes Kalani Sitake, who is carving out his own bowl practice model for the first time, while drawing upon lessons learned from his time under Kyle Whittingham at Utah and getting advice from Ed Lamb, who has emerged as the tactical ace on the staff.
Sitake said after Tuesday's practice at the indoor practice facility that he's pleased with the focus and determination shown so far by coaches and players as they prepare for Wyoming.
Getting to a bowl game is huge for any program, and never gets old, he said.
"Having those extra practices, I think it helps the younger guys develop more, and then having those extra days to lift and spend some time together, it allows not only more time to prepare for the game, it also allows our offense and defense coaches to evaluate our guys a little bit more and see where we can utilize people more compared to in the season," Sitake said.
The Utes were 7-1 in bowl games while Sitake assisted Whittingham, including the 2009 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama.
"I can't exactly put a finger on what it is, but we definitely did some great things [at Utah] that Kyle did as far as bowl prep and getting ready for the game," Sitake said last week. "It would be crazy for me not to do a lot of the stuff that I think fits what we are trying to do with this program. We will have some of that."
Sitake said the Cougars are using "as much time as we can" to prepare for Wyoming, including a lot of time in the weight room, a season-long emphasis.
"That's the type of culture that we are trying to set here, is that the weight room comes first," Sitake said. "We got stronger during the season. Not a lot of teams do that, and we are going to focus on that."
Detmer had mixed bowl success playing for Edwards.
He came off the bench to lead BYU to a 20-17 Freedom Bowl victory in 1988, his freshman season, and was co-MVP of the Holiday Bowl against Penn State in a losing effort as a sophomore. He suffered two separated shoulders in the 1990 Holiday Bowl against Texas A&M after winning the Heisman Trophy, and played decently in a 13-13 tie against Iowa in the 1991 Holiday Bowl, but the final pass of his career was intercepted.
Detmer said he doesn't believe in using bowl practices to develop younger players with an eye toward next year.
"You are trying to finish off this season strong, because you've got such a long offseason ahead of you, with spring ball and fall camp," He said. "As a coach, it is about finishing off the season and not worrying about trying to prep guys for next year."
The Cougars (8-4) will practice in Provo through Friday, then leave for San Diego and practice at Southwestern College in Chula Vista, Calif., on Saturday, Monday and Tuesday before the game on Wednesday.
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
P At Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego
BYU (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5)
Dec. 21, 7 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN
BYU in bowls under Mendenhall (6-5)
Bowl Year Result
Las Vegas Bowl 2015 Utah 35, BYU 28
Miami Beach Bowl 2014 Memphis 55, BYU 48 (2OT)
Fight Hunger Bowl 2013 Washington 31, BYU 16
Poinsettia Bowl 2012 BYU 23, San Diego State 6
Armed Forces Bowl 2011 BYU 24, Tulsa 21
New Mexico Bowl 2010 BYU 52, UTEP 24
Las Vegas Bowl 2009 BYU 44, Oregon State 20
Las Vegas Bowl 2008 Arizona 31, BYU 21
Las Vegas Bowl 2007 BYU 17, UCLA 16
Las Vegas Bowl 2006 BYU 38, Oregon 8
Las Vegas Bowl 2005 Cal 35, BYU 28