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Has BYU offense learned humility?

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Utah's beat-down of BYU's offense could be a blessing for the Cougars heading to the Las Vegas Bowl where they'll face Arizona.

How, may one ask?

Well, Utah humbled the high-flying Cougar offense that coughed up six turnovers and the loss of a share of the conference title.

Made humble: To become lowly, meek, acquiescent, compliant, subdued and eager to swallow pride and get better.

Humility is a great teacher. It gets attention and carries weight. Humility is the pothole that gets you on the road to being rather than seeming.

In that regard, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall welcomes any and all chances to hold the humility whip in his hand and apply it to the hind ends of players.

A positive?

"You bet it is," said Mendenhall.

"I like humility. I'm not going to say I like defeat. But your program cannot advance to the level you want it to without some of those lessons. Team meetings and speeches are one thing, turning the ball over six times against your archrival when the score is 24-27, when execution is what is going to determine the win, forces everyone to look how they can improve."

Nobody's owned up more on the public stage than junior QB Max Hall. He's met it head on, discussed his warts in that game and proclaimed an aim to learn and produce against Arizona.

"I want to be more prepared for this game than I've been all year. And I want to play as good as I have all year," said Hall, who said he needs to "do a whole bunch of things" better, from how he sets his eyes to reading defenses and delivery.

In the three weeks since the last loss, as it's been reported, offensive coordinator Robert Anae took the offense aside for a long, long meeting. They broke down film, discussed the good, bad and ugly. People took responsibility for mistakes, from coaches to players.

"Execution," said Austin Collie. "We were trying to do too much. I think when we play to our natural abilities, we produce."

Mendenhall can point to turning points in his program since taking the BYU job. One came in a loss at San Diego State his first year. Another came after losing to Tulsa a year ago.

"We've learned in the past couple of years. We haven't had many of those, but each of them has enabled us to move the program forward," he said.

"I think if you look at the TCU game, it helped remind us about the emotional component and remind us about that part. The Utah game certainly reminded us about the importance of execution and playing clean. The emotion was there, but that wasn't enough."

Mendenhall, if he was a screamer, knows that isn't enough of a teaching method to deliver lessons needed to a mature football team.

"It's not possible. I'm not skilled enough coach to move us forward without an occasional setback," he said.

"And I'll continue to try and schedule teams early on that will take everything we can to measure ourselves against, to learn who we are. If there is any fault this year, it is that UCLA and Washington weren't as good as we'd hoped and we didn't really get our significant test until conference play midway through the year (at TCU). The two years we lost early was a benefit in learning lessons that enabled us to then win 10 straight."

The Cougars are good enough and smart enough that if glaring mistakes hit them in the face, they'll humbly react and improve, as outlined by Hall.

The hope by Mendenhall is the Cougars meet Arizona with a heightened sense of awareness and resolve.

"If our team chooses to take that approach, and if they don't, many times it could get worse before it gets better. That doesn't happen by chance but by choice. And so if we don't play cleaner and at a higher level — not chance but choice — where they haven't been quite humbled to the depths where it needed to be to really make changes necessary where it needed to be."

Then Arizona will be another humbling loss.

"I can point it out. I can impose demand," said Mendenhall. "But until it comes from personal recognition, choice will determine the outcome. We'll know at the end of the game if they've taken that challenge or not, not to absolve myself, I'm responsible for all of it.

"But when we truly choose to learn the lessons, the program will get better."

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com