CORVALLIS, Ore. — For most Cougars, it was a first trip to Oregon State when the BYU football team went to Corvallis on Saturday and beat the Beavers 38-28. But for one Cougar this was a trip down memory lane.
BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall is no stranger in Beaver territory and knows the workings of the OSU campus and Reser Stadium.
After playing two years at Snow College, Mendenhall transferred to OSU to finish his collegiate playing days. He was a two-year starter at safety and linebacker from 1986-87 and was also team captain his senior year.
But as times and people change, so do buildings — and football stadiums.
“It’s been a long time,” Mendenhall said. “[It was] fun to see the facility upgrades. It doesn’t look at all like what it used to look like from a stadium perspective; from the end zone buildings to the indoor practice facility. It took me awhile to even get my bearings. So it’s fun to to see the progress that’s come that way.”
Back when Mendenhall played it was known as Parker Stadium, but playing wasn’t all he did at OSU. Mendenhall began his coaching career with the Beavers as a grad assistant in 1989 and then came back as part of the full-time staff in 1995, first as the defensive line coach and then as the defensive coordinator in 1996.
This weekend was Mendenhall’s first time back in Corvallis since being let go 15 years ago. Ironically enough, the man who chose not to retain Mendenhall on his staff is current OSU head coach Mike Riley.
Although Mendenhall and Riley have somewhat of a football past, Riley said in a press conference before the game that he’s looking forward to the series of games the Beavers now have with the Cougars.
“I have a lot of respect for Bronco [Mendenhall] and his program, and obviously their team,” he said.
Riley isn’t the only who has respect. The feeling is mutual.
“Mike Riley has a ton of class and just is an amazing person,” Mendenhall said. “He has a good program. There are very few coaches in Division I football that I respect as much as he as a person, so it’s first of all really good to see him again.”
Mendenhall was also able to see former OSU friends, roommates and teammates at the game and at the fireside the team put on in Keizer on Friday night.
The last time Mendenhall, as a Beaver, played against the Cougars back in 1986, the Beavers won 10-7. The two teams matched up again at the 2009 Las Vegas Bowl, but this time Mendenhall was BYU’s head coach and again his team came out on top, 44-20.
Although Mendenhall said earlier in the week he was having “mixed feelings” about going back to his alma mater, he said the trip was a success and he left as a proud coach.
“It was good to be back at Oregon State,” he said.