With Texas A&M’s probable departure from the Big 12, rumors of BYU replacing the Aggies are at the back of coaches’ and players’ minds as they prepare for the season opener against Ole Miss this Saturday.
At this point, BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall is focused on polishing off the final assignments and schemes that will be used during Saturday’s game.
[media-credit name=”Chris Bunker” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]”I like our preparation,” Mendenhall said. “Our team is getting excited. There are still a few last minutes things to get fixed, but I like the attitude, I like the preparation and I like the production.”
Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt is also aware of BYU’s skill and branded the team as “tough, experienced, and disciplined” at a news conference on Aug. 29.
Concerning the speculation over BYU taking Texas A&M’s place in the Big 12, Mendenhall said he’s comfortable with where the Cougars are now, and there’s too much to focus on at the time being to really consider other options.
The team is also determined to focus on the task at hand.
“Ole Miss is a great team,” senior running back Bryan Kariya said. “We’re going to go in there expecting their best. We’re looking to play as well as we can and just focus on what we need to do on the field — execute sharply and stay composed.”
As the Cougar defense gears up to take the Rebels down, there’s only one thing on players’ minds.
“Stop the run,” senior linebacker Jordan Pendleton said. “First and foremost we want to stop the run. We want to get them out of their element and throw against us [so that] we can kind of dictate what’s going on.”
BYU quarterback Jake Heaps prepares not just for a skillful opponent, hostile environment and difficult weather, but a friend on the opposite sidelines.
“[Ole Miss quarterback Barry Brunetti and I] have a close friendship,” Heaps said. “We’ve gone to a few camps together. He’s a great kid and a great athlete and a great quarterback. I’m really excited for him to have this opportunity.”
Because BYU doesn’t have films on Ole Miss’ Brunetti, a sophomore who was named Saturday’s starting quarterback about a week and a half ago, the Cougars have turned to focusing on their own schemes.
“My guess is they’ll really work hard to run the football on us,” Mendenhall said. “Then setup play action pass, [and] then let the quarterback be a multiple threat, which is what he is.”
Another Rebel the Cougars will have to watch out for is Brandon Bolden, Ole Miss’ senior running back. Bolden has been ranked second in his school’s history for touchdowns scored.
The game will air on Saturday at 2:45 p.m. MST on ESPN.