By Jed McClellan
For Cougar football fans everywhere the big day has finally arrived.
After three losing seasons in a row and no bowl appearances since 2001 fans are ready for a return to the winning tradition. So far, that?s what the team has promised. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall has returned to some of the winning traditions with changes to the uniforms and field to have the same look as the past strong football teams of BYU.
He has also stressed to the players the responsibility of living up to the legacy and tradition of BYU football that has been established by past players and coaches. Many questions have been asked of the players and much has been said about how this year?s team will be better, now the team gets their chance to prove it.
?We?ve had a lot of time to talk?the confidence continues to grow each and everyday,? junior running back Curtis Brown said. ?Now it?s time to start walking the walk. I?m real confident in my team. The team has worked hard day in and day out. The guys are hungry, coming off three losing seasons and we want to return this school to the powerhouse it used to be.?
The Cougars will get the chance to prove just how far they have come at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at LaVell Edwards Stadium. They will square off against nationally ranked Boston College. The Eagles are ranked No. 22 in the preseason Associated Press poll and are coming of a strong 9-3 season including a win over North Carolina in the Continental Tire Bowl. The Eagles have made five straight bowl appearances and have won all five of them.
?We have a quality opponent coming in Boston College,? head coach Bronco Mendenhall said. ?They are a very mature football team, a very confident football team, a team that is seasoned and experienced in every way? However we look forward to the game.?
The Eagles are led by All-America defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka. Kiwanuka?s reputation precedes him as he was named the Atlantic Coast conference preseason defensive player of the year, even though Boston College is new to the conference and he has yet to take the field against an ACC opponent.
?He?s very fast and athletic, and what endears him to me is he plays hard,? Mendenhall said. ?What I like about that young man (Kiwanuka) is he plays the game the way it?s supposed to be played in terms of effort and intensity.?
The Eagles offense is led by quarterback Quinton Porter, who was the starting quarterback in 2003 before injuring his hand. He redshirted last season and will be the starter once again for his senior year.
An offensive line that returns all five starters from last season will protect Porter.
As strong as Boston College may be BYU is ready for them.
?BC is a good team,? junior linebacker Cameron Jensen said. ?We?re going to go out there and play the best we can, we?re going to play hard, and we are going to play with extreme effort? we?re just excited to get out there and play and to play BC.?
BYU will be led on offense by quarterback John Beck, who is on the Davey O?Brien National Quarterback Award watch list, and receiver Todd Watkins, who led the Mountain West Conference in receiving last season. Watkins was also named by Sports Illustrated as the nation?s top deep threat in college football because of his combination of size and speed.
Under new offensive coordinator Robert Anae the Cougars hope to put up a lot of points and move the ball at will similar to the successful teams from the past.
The Cougars will continue the attacking style of defense that has been in place since Mendenhall became the defensive coordinator in 2003. Outland trophy candidate Manaia Brown anchors the defensive line and along with Jensen will help to set the tempo for the defense and control the run-heavy offense of Boston College.