There really is no rest for the weary, at least as a newly independent college football program. Carrying momentum from a come-from-behind win against Ole Miss, the Cougars hope to make a favorable impression on a national stage when they match up against the Texas Longhorns this Saturday in Austin, Texas.
Coach Mendenhall maintains the Cougars are far more eager than apprehensive to play in front of more than 100, 000 fans at Memorial Stadium.
“I think it will be fun for our players to see that, and measure themselves against [that standard],” Mendenhall said. “[But] besides warm ups and maybe when you come out of the tunnel, other than that there isn’t much difference between sixty or eighty or one hundred thousand. That’s how it is for both players and coaches I think.”
Senior linebacker Jordan Pendleton sounded equally confident about Saturday’s matchup.
“We don’t get intimidated,” Pendleton said. “We’re excited to play these types of teams being independent now. We want to show we can play with anybody.”
The team’s preparation for this showdown against a traditional college power has focused on making adjustments from the game against Ole Miss. This is true particularly on offense, where the Cougars only managed one offensive touchdown to open the season despite high expectations.
Sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps said the offense has been working on getting to the line of scrimmage at the right tempo and improving the snaps.
“Those mistakes are very easily corrected,” Heaps said. “We feel there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Two of the Cougars’ top wide receivers may have extra incentive to perform well against the Longhorns because of familiarity. Senior McKay Jacobson and freshman Ross Apo were both recruited by Texas, and Apo was initially committed to Texas before changing his mind in favor of BYU, much to the chagrin of Texas head coach Mack Brown.
“He wasn’t very happy and tried to change my mind,” Apo said. “I’m sure there’s going be a lot of people that don’t like me [because of the decision] but it’s gonna make me play harder.”
Because of his mission, Jacobson doesn’t know many of the players still playing for the Longhorns, but he said he is mostly focused on helping the offense to improve this week.
“We just [have] to have a good work week. That’s what it comes down to,” Jacobson said. “We need to do a better job offensively finishing drives and putting points on the board.”
The defense, meanwhile, looks to build on its momentum from a dominant season opener.
“What a shame it would be to get all this recognition and then go out there and lose games. We want to win games, that’s what we’re here to do,” Pendleton said. “[In looking at film] we were excited about how well we played, but we were even more excited that we know we can keep improving.”
The harrowing nail-biter at Ole Miss provided experience for the Cougars that neither unit is likely to forget coming into week 2.
“Coaching is nothing other than teaching, and teaching requires teachable moments and people that are willing to be taught,” Mendenhall said. “A lot of times after a win, players are less teachable… [but] when you win having come from behind in the last hour of the game so to speak, that teachable moment is still there.”