This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo • Less than an hour after the Cougars had waltzed their way past overmatched Idaho State 56-3 on Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium, BYU coaches were back at their offices in the Student Athlete Building a mile or so to the south, preparing for this week's game against Texas Christian University.
Losing by a combined total of 101-17 to TCU the past three seasons will do that to a coaching staff.
Up next for 6-2 BYU is arguably the biggest game of the year, Friday's 6 p.m. MDT showdown against 5-2 TCU at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Because they face a short week of preparation and not just because TCU has owned them the past three seasons the coaches tried to squeeze what they usually do on a Monday into Saturday's four- to five-hour postgame work session, coach Bronco Mendenhall said. The coach has said BYU doesn't do anything preparation-wise on Sundays.
For his part, TCU coach Gary Patterson told reporters after the Frogs' 63-0 win over New Mexico that he was going to do roughly the same thing on Saturday night.
"I won't watch this [New Mexico film] much at all," Patterson told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, noting that BYU's defense "is a whole lot better" than New Mexico's. "I am taking my laptop home, and I'll have BYU on by 6:30."
The Cougars, winners of five straight, are locked into the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 30, and have no conference title to play for, but Friday's game will essentially define their season. Lose to the Frogs again, and all those critics' claims that they have looked better the past month only because their schedule has weakened will have merit.
None of the Cougars' six wins has come against winning teams.
"The last couple [of games against TCU] haven't been as competitive as I would have liked," Mendenhall said. " … I want our team to get better. And this will be a great chance for us to see where we are, and to challenge ourselves."
Cougar-killer Andy Dalton is now quarterbacking for the Cincinnati Bengals, but Casey Paschall is filling in admirably, and the Frogs showed Saturday against the lowly Lobos they still have the same speedy, opportunistic players that have plagued BYU in the past.
"TCU is a good football team. So we hope to go in there, and play a competitive ball game, and hopefully come away with the win," said Riley Nelson, now 3-0 as BYU's starting QB in 2011. "We are heading on the right track to being a good football team."
Nelson has hurt teams with state in their names (Utah State, San Jose State, Oregon State and Idaho State) with his running ability, but now faces a Texas-size defense, albeit one that ranks just 37th in the country after its predecessors were annually in the top 10 the past few years.
"Like I have said … before, let coach Mendenhall [decide on the starting QB]," Nelson said after passing for 215 yards and rushing for 62 against the Bengals. "That's why they pay him the big bucks, to handle personnel decisions, and the depth chart, and all that. It doesn't affect me in the least. If anything, it motivates me."
BYU vs. TCU
P At Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Friday, 6 p.m. MDT
TV • ESPN