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BYU hopes to avoid recent upset bug

PROVO — Having a bye last weekend gave BYU ample opportunity to pay attention to what's going on around the country in college football.

The message? Upsets happen.

There were surprising outcomes again last weekend, most notably Stanford upsetting then-No. 2 Southern California. The Cougars noticed.

"That was a big shock," said defensive back Brandon Howard. "Anything can happen. You've seen it all year. You never know who's going to win."

So can BYU (3-2, 2-0), the defending Mountain West Conference champion, apply that lesson to itself this week as it prepares to face UNLV (2-4, 1-1), which finished last in the league last season?

"We have to prepare well, worry about ourselves and worry about how we're executing in practice," Howard said. "That will carry over in games."

"It's kind of been a weird year for college football," said quarterback Max Hall. "We've had a lot of big teams lose to smaller teams. USC losing to Stanford was a really big upset. It shows you can't lose focus and you can't take anybody lightly.

"We've just got to focus on what we're doing," Hall continued. "We can't take any team we have left in the conference lightly. You saw Wyoming beat TCU and UNLV beat Utah so bad. Then Utah goes out and beats Louisville. Every team is capable, so we have to play like the conference championship depends on it. We're just focused on that and make sure we stay healthy."

Coach Bronco Mendenhall said unpredictability is the norm in college football.

"Aside from the USC game, I think there have been five or six games where the rankings were maybe a bit premature and right now, there is a lot of season left and no one really knows who is the best in the country," he said. "We're anxious, just week-by-week, to determine where we stand rather than be concerned with the outside world."

WEEKEND OFF: While most of the BYU coaches went recruiting last weekend, many Cougar players took advantage of the time off to go home.

Hall went back to Arizona, attended a wedding and watched LDS General Conference. "I think it's good to take a couple of weeks off, let your body and mind rest," he said. "Get your mind off football for a day or two. When you come back, you feel fresh and renewed. You pick up right where you left off, except for a little bit more intensity."

Mendenhall was persuaded, by his wife, Holly, to watch a little football on TV.

"This weekend was the first time I have watched a Mountain West Conference game. My wife wanted to watch it," he said. "It was Air Force vs. UNLV and I would have never done so unless Holly was up for it. She made some popcorn."

Mendenhall added that he's looking forward to getting on the field again. "Our football team is anxious to play," he said. "The bye week came at an appropriate time. We believe we got a lot accomplished. It seems like quite a while since we've played."

EXTRA POINTS: Wide receiver Bryce Mahuika (concussion) returned to practice last week ... Receiver Austin Collie (ankle) and cornerback Ben Criddle (ankle) are probable for Saturday's game ... Manase Tonga was held out of practice with an MCL sprain, and Howard was held out with an ankle sprain ... Four freshmen (G Pittman, Brannon Brooks, David Angilau and Gary Nagy) were reinstated Monday by Mendenhall after being suspended from practice for a violation of team rules.

On the air

BYU (3-2, 2-0) at UNLV (2-4, 1-1)

Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sam Boyd Stadium

TV: The mtn.

Radio: 1160AM, 102.7FM