Former BYU football coach Bronco Mendenhall played — and lost — three games against the University of Notre Dame during his time as head coach. As the Cougars prepare to take on the Fighting Irish in Las Vegas this week, here’s a look back at how the legendary coach described those matchups and the overall relationship between the two schools.
On BYU’s 49-23 loss to Notre Dame in 2005
Mendenhall’s first clash with Notre Dame as a head coach came during his first season at the helm of BYU’s football team. The Cougars lost a 49-23 blowout in South Bend, Indiana, due, in large part, to a poor performance by a leading wide receiver.
“Talented BYU senior receiver (Todd Watkins) dropped four passes and two of them could have been impact bombs,” the Deseret News reported at the time.
Mendenhall offered Watkins some words of encouragement in an interview after the game.
“Todd is a very talented receiver,” he said. “He’ll have better games and has before.”
On BYU’s 17-14 loss to Notre Dame in 2012
Mendenhall and his Cougars next faced the Fighting Irish in 2012 in South Bend. BYU lost by just three points after a potentially game-changing pass from then-quarterback Riley Nelson missed its mark in the fourth quarter.
“I was proud of our team, one or two plays short from being able to come away with a victory,” said Mendenhall after the game, according to the Deseret News. “We had a great chance — a number of chances — to pull off an upset. But ultimately we didn’t make a critical play here or there right down the stretch to win the game.”
On BYU’s 23-13 loss to Notre Dame in 2013
The last BYU-Notre Dame match that Mendenhall oversaw was also the last time the two schools met on a football field. The Cougars lost 23-13 in 2013 on a snowy and cold afternoon in South Bend.
After the game, Mendenhall chalked up the loss to missed opportunities, according to the Deseret News.
The game came down to “a few opportunities that we didn’t make and a few Notre Dame did make,” he said, adding that, “Notre Dame earned the win.”
On the relationship between BYU and Notre Dame
The 2012 and 2013 games were part of a series between BYU and Notre Dame that was announced when BYU went independent. Mendenhall said at the time that he had been rooting for the series to come together.
“We were looking for good opponents and good partnerships,” he said, according to the Deseret News. “I certainly don’t think it was a deal-breaker if (a deal with Notre Dame) didn’t happen. But I wanted the game. I thought it was a nice, intriguing game and some similarities between the two institutions.”