Close losses by Cougars don’t curb Mendenhall’s optimism

Though the results might not show it, Brigham Young football coach Bronco Mendenhall says he is seeing progress.

The Cougars (4-4) look to snap a two-game losing streak Saturday at Georgia Tech (3-4). The game will be televised at noon on Fox Sports Net (Cable 50).

“We are really close,” Mendenhall said. “There have been four really close games and tough losses, but I still think we are gaining momentum and making progress. I see us inching close to breaking through.”

BYU has lost back-to-back games at No. 5 Notre Dame (17-14) and against No. 7 Oregon State (42-24). Three of the Cougars’ four defeats have come by a combined total of seven points.

“I think the program is moving forward. We are taking on an ‘all-comers’ approach (to scheduling) and it’s gonna keep going that way,” Mendenhall said. “I like the challenge. We are one or two plays away and that is the next step.”

The Cougars enter the softer portion of their schedule after Saturday with games against Idaho, San Jose State and New Mexico State. BYU needs two more wins to secure an invitation to the Poinsettia Bowl on Dec. 20 against a team from the Mountain West Conference.

■ TRIPLE OPTION – Georgia Tech is third in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 339.6 yards and 37 points per game. Last week against Boston College, the Yellow Jackets controlled the ball for nearly 44 minutes in their 37-17 victory.

Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington has 15 rushing touchdowns this season – second most in college football. BYU has 13 as a team.

The Cougars will counter the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option attack with the nation’s No. 8 rushing defense that is allowing 93.1 yards per game. Mendenhall, who is also BYU’s defensive coordinator, said he enjoys the challenge.

“I’ve been on both good days and bad days when defending the option,” he said. “When you are playing well it’s very gratifying. When you are not, you feel hopeless.”

While Georgia Tech’s offense has been effective, its defense has allowed an average of 40 points in its last three losses.

“We need to sustain drives, score touchdowns and I need to not play so tentatively,” senior quarterback Riley Nelson said.

■ CENTER OF ATTENTION – Senior center Braden Hansen will miss two to four weeks with a groin injury he suffered against Notre Dame. He is the sixth BYU lineman to get hurt this season. Sophomore Blair Tushaus, who was replaced by Hansen after BYU’s loss at Utah on Sept. 15, will return as the starter.

■ KICKING WOES – Neither BYU nor Georgia Tech is happy with its kicking game. The Cougars have missed four of their last five field-goal attempts. Georgia Tech has missed five of its last seven.

■ HOOPS TONIGHT – Bishop Gorman product Anson Winder and Brigham Young’s basketball team tip off their season tonight with an exhibition against Southeastern Oklahoma State. The game will be televised on BYUtv (Cable 352) at 6 p.m.

Dave McCann is a news anchor for KSL television in Salt Lake City and is play-by-play voice for BYU sports on BYUtv. He is also the host of True Blue, which airs Monday nights at 5:30 on BYUtv. Dave can be reached at dmccann@ksl.com or on twitter @DaveMcCannKSL.

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