PROVO — BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall remembers vividly the feeling of sitting in the locker room at Qualcomm Stadium two years ago after his team had just suffered a humbling 31-10 loss at San Diego State.
It was Mendenhall's fourth game of his first season as the Cougar head coach, and he was looking for answers. BYU had gained only 305 yards of total offense, while the defense had surrendered 508 yards to the lowly Aztecs. At the time, BYU, fresh off three losing seasons, owned a lackluster 1-3 record.
In the moments following the game, Mendenhall was "searching for what I needed to do to be a more effective head coach and if I was using our personnel and talent and schemes correctly, knowing the answer was no. I remember that really specifically," he recalled Monday. "That was a defining time for our program and for myself as a person and as a head coach in trying to do a better job here."
What Mendenhall didn't remember — or even realize until it was pointed out to him recently — was that BYU has won nine straight Mountain West Conference games since that loss at San Diego State.
"It didn't even cross my mind," Mendenhall said. "The streak isn't as relevant to me. I just would like to give our team the best chance every week to be prepared and to show who they are and what they are capable of. For the majority of each and every week since that time, I think we've done that."
Mendenhall and his staff made key personnel and scheme decisions after the 2005 SDSU defeat that helped shape the direction of the program. Two years later, BYU (5-2, 3-0), the defending league champion, is set to return to San Diego to take on the Aztecs (2-5, 1-2) to try to extend that road winning streak to 10. SDSU is the only MWC foe the Cougars have not beaten on the road in Mendenhall's three years at the helm.
"It's a critical week in terms of our quest for a conference championship and in terms of regaining conference momentum and playing on the road, both of which will be critical as we finish out the season," Mendenhall said. "And it also kind of sets the stage for the stretch run with five conference games remaining."
The key to having success on the road is about being focused, according to Cougar center Sete Aulai. "Winning at home and on the road is the same thing," he said. "We have to carry the same mindset as we do when we play at LaVell Edwards Stadium."
REDEN UNDERGOES SURGERY: BYU freshman offensive lineman Garrett Reden, who broke his ankle in the Cougars' 42-7 victory over Eastern Washington last Saturday, underwent surgery Monday morning.
"It's definitely not a good thing for us when we see one of our guys go down, especially a guy like Garrett," said Aulai. "He's a great player. We feed off his play, even though he's a backup for us. I called him (Sunday) and his spirits are high."
DETMER HONORED AGAIN: Former BYU quarterback Ty Detmer returned to his old high school Friday night in San Antonio, Texas, for a special gathering at Dragon Stadium, where his alma mater retired his No. 10 jersey before defeating Corpus Christi King, 35-24. The former Heisman winner had his No. 14 BYU jersey retired at halftime of the Cougars' season opener against Arizona.