Last year the BYU football team visited one of the most iconic settings in college football to take on a team that would later play in the national championship. The Cougars claimed an early lead — one they would hold into the fourth quarter — before surrendering their advantage and the game to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish by only three points.
What do they remember about last year’s game?
“That we should have won,” said Kyle Van Noy, who intercepted a pass in the contest.
Moments after the final whistle of a blowout win on senior day against Idaho State, Van Noy wasn’t the only one whose smile turned to a grimace as he answered questions about a return to South Bend on Nov. 23.
“I don’t remember many games, but I remember that one,” head coach Bronco Mendenhall said about last year’s trip to Notre Dame. “We had a great opportunity to win.”
This year’s game features a BYU team that looks better than last year’s group, while the Irish have already lost twice more than they did all of last year. That doesn’t take away from the significance of the game or the pressure to win for BYU.
BYU has played Notre Dame twice in the Bronco Mendenhall era, getting whalloped 49-23 in 2005 and narrowly losing last year. The Cougars have had a hard time snatching elusive quality wins on the road in recent history, and they hope to do more than just come up short this time.
“It’s another chance for a quality win on a big stage,” Mendenhall said.
Having made the trip last year, BYU veterans feel that stage fright won’t play as much a role this year.
“We’re returning a lot of guys from last year,” senior receiver Cody Hoffman said. “I think we’ll have the confidence we need going in to win.”
In Mendenhall’s mind, a win on Nov. 23 could propel the BYU vs. Notre Dame matchup to greater heights.
“I want it to be a rivalry,” Mendenhall said. “That will happen once we do our part in winning enough games. I’d like to play them as much as possible.”
BYU plays Notre Dame on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 1:30 MDT. The game will be televised on NBC.