PROVO — A week ago, with his team struggling defensively, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall decided to reprise his role as defensive play-caller.
Mendenhall called all the defensive plays in the Cougars’ 55-30 loss at Boise State last Friday. BYU surrendered 637 yards of total offense — giving up 8.1 yards per play — and 31 points in the second quarter.
This week, as BYU prepares to visit Middle Tennessee Saturday (1:30 p.m. MDT, CBSSN), Mendenhall has handed the reins of defensive play-calling back to defensive coordinator Nick Howell.
“What I plan to do is just support all of our coaches the best way that I can,” Mendenhall explained. “One of the next steps for our program to really grow and develop is to continue to increase the capacity of the coaches on my staff. I’ll certainly be an aid not only to Coach Howell but to (offensive coordinator Robert) Anae and I’ll help any way that I can to make sure the plans are exactly how they’re supposed to be.”
After the 2013 season, Mendenhall gave the defensive play-calling responsibility to Howell and also decided to spend almost all of his time with the offense instead of the defense. Not being the play-caller allowed him to focus more on head coaching duties.
But last week, he felt it was necessary to be more involved with the defense.
“It’s pretty simple,” Mendenhall said. “With the type of offense Boise State ran, with our current personnel, and with the current state of our team, there had to absolutely be another resource in the room. There’s been four (defensive coaches) since I left at the beginning of the year. There needs to be more. I’ll play more of an active role in there, but I thought I could help more immediately for that week in that spot in trying to get the team ready.”
Because he spent so much time and energy being the defensive play-caller last week, Mendenhall felt that he short-changed other areas of the program.
“As a result of (calling plays), I knew there would be trade-offs in other places. Currently with this team, that’s kind of what happens. Some of game management was part of that. I didn’t feel good about that part.”
Senior defensive back Skye PoVey said what happened at Boise State taught the players an important lesson.
“If anything, that was just evidence that it’s on us — nothing to do with the coaching,” he said. “We’re being coached really well. We’re prepared really well. Each and every week we’ve had a great scheme. At the end of the day, we’re not making the plays that need to be made. There’s no one to point the finger than at ourselves as players. The coaches are going to try to take responsibility but at the end of the day, it’s on us.”
The Cougars are dealing with a four-game losing streak after starting the season 4-0.
“Of course, we’re a little disappointed. It’s been four games,” wide receiver Jordan Leslie said of the losing skid. “But we’re coming in with a competitive mindset. We need to prove something. We need to come out and play strong.”
How does Mendenhall assess his team’s attitude?
“We’re all competitors, coaches and players,” he said. “Each person goes through their own grieving process, so to speak. The coaches have to do it fast and the players are normally more resilient. I don’t sense any splintering, wavering, segmenting. I sense resolve and ‘how fast can we play again?’ is what I’m sensing.”
BYU (4-4) at Middle Tennessee (5-3)
Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MDT
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM