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New duds, but play is the same

PROVO — Amid the interview room photos of Robbie Bosco, Jim McMahon, Ty Detmer and even the Grand Master himself, LaVell Edwards, Bronco Mendenhall took the blame.

All of it.

For the failed third-down conversions, the drive-squelching penalties, the non-existent rushing game and, of course, the weak results in what Mendenhall resolutely calls "the blue zone."

For punting on fourth down late in the game when they probably should have gone for it.

For a 20-3 loss to Boston College.

What do you expect from a guy named Bronco? Whining?

Wranglers don't whine.

"Ultimately," he said, "how I'm judged is by wins."

So there you have it. Game 1 of the BYU Reclamation Project is in the books. Score it a disappointment for the Cougars. Mendenhall would be the first to admit it takes more than cosmetics and a lot of talk to affect change.

It takes big plays in key moments.

That other stuff?

That's just for snuggling.

Revamped uniforms and visits from legends don't count diddly if you shoot yourself in the foot.

"Dang it. We're better than that," said tight end Daniel Coats. "We all know it. It's horrible killing ourselves like that."

After nine months of buildup, and a ton of reporting on how BYU is going back to its roots, all Saturday produced was a 17-point loss.

OK, there was a lot of nostalgia, too, but that was expected. It's the darnedest thing. Eventually it still gets down to playing.

"Now there's a clear reference point on where we are," said Mendenhall.

And where they are is where they left off nine months ago.

"We have plenty to improve on. We didn't do our part as it relates to execution, and that ultimately was it today," said Mendenhall.

If nothing else, Mendenhall worked some decent mojo when it came to atmosphere. At the center of the field was a giant "stretch-Y" symbol, the same one BYU had on its helmets in the glory days. Then there were their much-publicized retro uniforms, which also had the "stretch-Y" on white helmets.

It looked downright prim and proper.

Like maybe they should've never changed.

But there was more nostalgia than just the uniforms. Like, for instance, the banners in the concourses with pictures of former All-Americans such as Mav Allen and Jeff Blanc. The message screen also featured a "stretch-Y" and occasionally flashed a picture of a former star, such as the one of Steve Young, accompanied by a caption that read: "Nice pass!"

BYU players did a hakka dance prior to kickoff, an ancient tradition designed to inspire warriors and frighten opponents.

A couple of early touchdowns may have worked even better.

It seems everything was orchestrated to tie the current Cougars to their past. Across the top of the stat sheets in the press box it read: No. 22 Boston College vs. Brigham Young (Sept. 3, 2005 at Cougar Town, UT.)

Wow.

Now it's Cougar Town.

Does Rand-McNally know about this?

If disheartening to BYU fans, the loss wasn't surprising.

The Eagles were ranked and favored. B.C. is a capable, disciplined team that did a good job of adjusting as the game progressed. Meanwhile, BYU is breaking in a new offense.

Still, considering the way the Cougars moved the ball between the 20-yard lines, yet couldn't get in the end zone, it was disconcerting for Mendenhall. A recovered fumble resulted in nothing but a stalled effort in the other direction. A blocked punt got them nothing more than a field goal. A fourth-down play on the B.C. 36, of which Mendenhall admitted he shouldn't have punted, turned into an Eagle field goal.

A day of remembering, but a day for learning, too.

As Mendenhall is quick to allow, the Cougars are still 0-1.

And after nine months of buildup, they're still doing things they wish they didn't.

The only difference, so far, being that they're dressed better while they're doing it.


E-mail: rock@desnews.com