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Guest commentary: BYU football second-year coaching hopes in 2006 and 2017

As BYU football second-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall and his staff prepared for the 2006 season, there was hope as well as apprehension in the air. The Cougars had gone four years without a winning season.

To top it off, the Cougars had lost their final two games of every season since 2001. However, there were strong indications that 2006 would be different.

The infectious Mendenhall intensity was beginning to show itself on the field, and senior quarterback John Beck had a strong supporting cast returning for the upcoming 2006 season.

As we left our home in Mesa, Arizona, on a hot early-September afternoon and headed south, we were not sure what to expect from the Cougars. About 100 miles later, we arrived at Arizona Stadium, where the Cougars would square off against the Arizona Wildcats of the then-Pac-10.

We were encouraged by the tenacity and talent the Cougars showed that night, especially on defense, but BYU lost in a low-scoring affair that was marred by several controversial calls by the officials.

That night we didn't get to witness the high-powered scoring machine the Cougars would become that season. After a 1-2 record to start the season, the BYU team reeled off 10 straight wins, capped by a dramatic win over Utah and a 30-point victory over the Oregon Ducks in the Las Vegas Bowl.

It is interesting to note that Mendenhall, after going 1-2 in the first three games of the season, had a 43-7 record over his next 50 games ... those were heady days.

Fast-forward to 2017, and it is coach Kalani Sitake's second year at the BYU helm. He and his first-year staff had a surprisingly good season in 2016, and it was heavily laced with heart-stopping finishes.

There is optimism in the Cougar camp as fall practices get underway, but the positive outlook is tempered by a few cautioning influences. First, the season is front-loaded with some heavy competition, highlighted by games with Louisiana State and Wisconsin.

Second, a highly regarded Utah team comes to LaVell Edwards Stadium riding a six-game winning streak against the Cougars. Third, two of the greatest ground-gainers in BYU history, namely Jamaal Williams and Taysom Hill, will not be suiting up this year.

The fourth cautioning issue is that in the last five years BYU has not lost fewer than four games in a season. On the flip side, former frosh phenom QB Tanner Mangum is ready to lead the Cougar team in his junior season. He is flanked by an impressive display of offensive and defensive talent.

Another reason for optimism is that an energized fan base has bought into the Sitake approach and regime. It appears the program is in good hands and is heading in the right direction.

Let's hope the magic created in the second year of the Mendenhall era will reappear in Sitake's second season. The stage is set, the season is fast approaching and the fans can't wait to see it play out.

Ken Driggs of Mesa, Arizona, is a BYU graduate and served as Cosmo in the '60s. Contact him at kkdriggs@gmail.com.