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BYU football: Cougars looking forward to another shot at Notre Dame

PROVO — When BYU visited Notre Dame last October, quarterback Taysom Hill sat at home with his family, dealing with a season-ending knee injury, and watched the game on television.

The Cougars return to South Bend, Ind., Saturday (1:30 p.m. MST, NBC) and Hill can’t wait for the chance to play at historic Notre Dame Stadium for the first time.

“I’m really excited,” Hill said after BYU’s 59-13 victory over Idaho State last Saturday. “Much like Wisconsin, you get a team like Notre Dame that’s known around the country for being a quality football team. It gives us an opportunity again to go on the road to showcase what we can do on a national stage.”

Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall remembers well his team’s narrow 17-14 setback to the Fighting Irish a year ago. At that time, Notre Dame was undefeated and ranked No. 5 in the country. The Irish, who rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit against BYU, ended up playing in the national championship game.

“I don’t remember many games, but I remember that one,” Mendenhall said. “So I’m looking forward to going back.”

“It’s definitely stuck with us because we easily could have won,” said senior wide receiver Cody Hoffman. “Just seeing them in the national championship, knowing that we could have and should have beat them, it’s nice to be able to go back this year and hopefully get revenge.”

When asked what he remembers about last year’s game, senior linebacker Kyle Van Noy said, “That we should have won. I remember being on the field a lot. That we should have come out with a win, in my opinion.”

Notre Dame (7-3) is coming off a bye this week. The week before that, the Irish fell at Pittsburgh, 28-21.

“I think we’re going (to play) a team that’s healed from a bye week and ready to go,” Van Noy said. “But I think we’re hungry, too. We’re hungry for success, and I think that’s what is going to show in South Bend. It’s going to be a good game and it’s going to be competitive. It’s Midwest team football, just like Wisconsin. It’s going to be fun.”

Sophomore running back Jamaal Williams, who rushed 14 times for 64 yards and caught seven passes for 42 yards against Notre Dame last year, is looking forward to another trip to South Bend.

“It’s going to be great. I can’t wait,” Williams said. “Just to go back and try to make a bigger impact this time and help the team get the ‘W.'”

Williams, who rushed for 131 yards and three touchdowns against Idaho State, said Saturday’s lopsided victory helped prepare the Cougars for the Irish.

“It got our mindset ready. Everybody’s ready to go to South Bend and handle our business. It’s going to be a great test for us. Going against Wisconsin, we kind of failed on that one. But I feel like this time we’re going to come back and prove ourselves.”

Van Noy said his team won’t be intimidated by the Notre Dame atmosphere because it played there a little more than one year ago.

“You’re familiar with it, and you know what to expect — what the atmosphere and environment is like,” Van Noy said. “The young guys will have to adjust to it a little bit. Hopefully we can get that out of the way and the veteran guys can lead by example and come away with a win.”

BYU and Notre Dame are scheduled to play four more times after this year’s meeting, though no other dates for games have been set.

This is a series Mendenhall wants to see continue for many years into the future.

“I would like it to end up being a rivalry that will happen once we do our part in winning enough games,” Mendenhall said. “A year ago, I felt we had a great opportunity to win. I look forward to a hard-fought game year in and year out. I’d like to play them as much as possible. I think the game makes a lot of sense. There’s a lot of intrigue for college football and I would love to play them on a yearly basis, if possible.”