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Provo • Saturday's game against Virginia is or isn't a revenge game for the BYU Cougars, depending on which player or coach one asks, but one thing was clear after Monday night's media session with coach Bronco Mendenhall and selected players.
The Cavaliers (2-1) have the Cougars' respect, despite having gone 2-10 last year.
"Because they beat Louisville, we are more focused," receiver Mitch Mathews said. "I am glad that they played well and that they won, so we could take this week more seriously."
Mendenhall said coaches put game film of BYU's 33-25 win over Houston to bed by 10 a.m. Friday, and some stayed in town to prepare for the Hoos, while others went recruiting.
"Virginia is an improved team, and playing well, and we are a good team, and playing well, so man, I think it is going to be a great game. I am looking forward to it," Mendenhall said, downplaying the revenge element after UVa upset BYU 19-16 last year in Charlottesville.
Defensive end and team captain Remington Peck also downplayed the revenge factor.
"I wouldn't say a revenge game, but I would say it has a sore place for a lot of us," Peck said. "If I could pick one game last year that we really felt we should have won, it was the Virginia game. … But they are a lot better team this year, a lot better than they were last year."
Said Mathews: "They took it away from us last year, so this game is a special game for us."
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill was named the FBS Independent Offensive Player of the Week for the third straight week on Monday. He was asked after Thursday's 33-25 win over Houston whether the Cougars needed to "pay back" Virginia for last year's ugly loss.
"I don't know if I want to say revenge, or whatever. But I am very excited to play Virginia again," Hill said. "I have watched the tape, and I have watched some of their games on TV, and they are a good defense. A good football team. So it will be a good challenge for us."
Whether his team stole one or not last year is of no concern to Virginia's Mike London, the coach said in a news conference Monday afternoon.
""Basically, we played them, and we won the football game. We look at the tape of what they are doing now, and what we did against them last year, and that's all that matters right now for us," London said.
The fifth-year coach said he also doesn't care whether BYU is trying to use revenge as a motivating factor.
"I would believe that coach Mendenhall would have his guys ready to play. Obviously, it is a home game for them. The results of the football game last year were the results of the game. … I don't know if they are as much worried about payback as they are trying to go 4-0, as they are trying to win a game at home, as we are trying to win a road game against a Top 25 team once again, a team that we played last year. So that's where we are coming from. I am not quite sure how coach Mendenhall is approaching it or how he is approaching it with their players."
London was reminded that after Hill played perhaps the worst game of his career in Charlottesville, he played one of his best games in Provo against Texas. Hill was just 13 of 40 for 175 yards against the Cavaliers, with one interception. He ran for just 42 net yards on 11 carries.
"His knowledge of the offense, his experience level, his football IQ, all those things that he has been coached to do, he's gotten better," London said. "He's a tough runner, he can throw the ball. Their style of offense is almost an assignment offense where any person at any time can run the ball. He is a focal figure in that and just when you think you have the dive, or you have him, he will pull it out and throw it to a receiver. So their offense fits really well to what he can, his skill, what he does. And he's a very good football player."
Virginia at No. 21 BYU
P Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
TV • ESPN