N. Iowa-BYU Preview

N. Iowa-BYU Preview

03 Temmuz 2018 - 02:00

Brigham Young has aspirations of finishing this season in a BCS bowl, but knows a perfect regular season record will be essential to doing so. The Cougars are determined to avoid another of the early season losses that have cost them that opportunity the past few years. The No. 16 Cougars look to get off to a strong start to the season and extend the nation's longest winning streak to 11 games when they open against FCS power Northern Iowa on Saturday. BYU's last two seasons have been very similar -- both ending with 11-2 records and 10-game winning streaks, both resulting in Mountain West Conference championships and each concluding with a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl. Despite leading the program back to the top of the conference, fourth-year coach Bronco Mendenhall has much bigger goals for BYU, which was the favorite to win the Mountain West in the media preseason poll and is ranked in the Preseason Top 25 for the first time since 1997. "There's not one player that's satisfied, nor a coach that's satisfied," Mendenhall said. Mendenhall has his sights set on a BCS bowl, something that has eluded his program as a result of poor starts the past two seasons. BYU stumbled out of the gate 1-2 in 2006 and '07, essentially knocking it out of BCS contention, as no team from a non-BCS conference has received a bid without an unbeaten record. "I think games early in the season, we've had some mental mistakes that have cost us a few games," said defensive tackle Jan Jorgensen, who led the Mountain West with 14 sacks last season. "We've just got to eliminate those." With games against Washington and UCLA in the upcoming weeks, the Cougars have to focus on extending their 13-game winning streak at Edwards Stadium when they face Northern Iowa, ranked fourth in the FCS preseason poll. "We've just got to be ready to go," said junior quarterback Max Hall, the league's preseason offensive player of the year. "This year, there are probably no excuses." Hall is one of 10 starters returning to the high-powered Cougars offense, which led the conference with 30.1 points and 442.8 total yards per game. Hall topped the Mountain West with 3,848 yards passing and 26 touchdowns, and also threw 12 interceptions in his first season as a starter. He'll hand off to 6-foot, 239-pound Harvey Unga, who rushed for 1,227 yards last season, second-most in the Mountain West and most ever by a BYU freshman. BYU's defense, which allowed the second-fewest points per game in the conference last season (18.5), will rely on Jorgensen to lead a unit featuring eight new starters. "A couple of things have to go our way. We've got to stay healthy and it can be the season we want it to be," Hall said. Northern Iowa is coming off a storybook season that ended in heartbreaking fashion. The Panthers were ranked No. 1 in the FCS for the final six weeks of the regular season, but lost to Delaware 39-27 at home in the tournament quarterfinals to finish 12-1. The Panthers try to bounce back from that devastating playoff defeat with a team that returns 13 starters. Northern Iowa was picked to finish second in the Missouri Valley Conference, formerly the Gateway Conference, behind North Dakota State. "I think this football team as a whole will evolve," said coach Mark Farley, last season's FCS coach of the year. "Last year was an experienced football team ... that is what we need to replace." Junior quarterback Pat Grace takes over behind an inexperienced offensive line that must replace four starters who were first- or second-team All-Gateway picks in 2007. The defense returns seven starters from a unit that ranked seventh in the FCS in points allowed per game (16.8). This will be the first meeting between Northern Iowa and BYU. The Panthers have lost all three previous meetings against ranked FBS opponents.


Kaynak:Abcnews

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