BYU looks to win at ND after tough loss last year
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)
Last season's 17-14 loss to Notre Dame sticks with BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall.
''I don't remember many games, but I remember that one,'' Mendenhall said. ''That's why I'm looking forward to going back.''
That's a common theme among the last three opponents for Notre Dame (7-3) this season. They all believe they could have or should have beaten the Fighting Irish last year, when Notre Dame finished the regular season undefeated.
All three led in the fourth quarter. Pittsburgh lost after missing what would have been a game-winning field goal in overtime. The Cougars lost after Riley Nelson missed a wide open Cody Hoffman for what likely would have been the go-ahead touchdown. Stanford believes Stepfan Taylor's scored a game-tying touchdown on fourth-and-goal in overtime.
Pitt already avenged a 28-21 win two weeks ago, ending Notre Dame's hopes for a BCS bowl berth. Now BYU (7-3) and Stanford (8-2) await their shots. The Cougars are up next on Saturday in the home-finale for the Irish.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly downplayed vengeance as a motivator, saying simply the desire to win each week should be enough.
''I think the primary (motivator) is the drive, the pride, the intrinsic motivation to want to win nine games, has got to be primary,'' he said.
The primary goal for the Irish this week is to send seniors out with a victory in their last game at Notre Dame Stadium.
Here are five things to watch this week during when BYU faces Notre Dame on Saturday:
MOBILE QUARTERBACK: Notre Dame has had problems with dual-threat quarterbacks. Michigan's Devin Gardner threw four touchdown passes and ran for 13 times for 82 yards and another score in a 41-30 win over the Irish. Oklahoma's quarterbacks combined for 238 yards passing and 83 yards rushing in a 35-21 victory.
BYU quarterback Taysom Hill ranks eighth in the country in total offense at 333.5 yards a game, including averaging 95.6 yards a game rushing. His 956 yards rushing is 444 yards more than Notre Dame's leading rusher.
''He's like a running back at quarterback, but he throws well too,'' cornerback KeiVarae Russell said. ''We haven't played a quarterback like him this year. ... I think he's probably the fastest quarterback we're going to play against.''
BELEAGUERED DEFENSIVE LINE: Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix III underwent season-ending knee surgery Thursday and linemen Kona Schwenke, Sheldon Day, Isaac Rochell (ankle sprains), and Ishaq Williams (knee) are all battling injuries, so the Irish are struggling up front on defense. ''We'll hope for the best and try to get as much as we can out of them on Saturday,'' Kelly said.
UP-TEMPO GAME: The Cougars run an average 86.8 plays a game, while the Irish run an average of 64.6 plays a game. Kelly, who came under heavy criticism from fans after the Irish called only six running plays in the second half in the loss to Pittsburgh, said they need to use ball control on offense to take pressure off the Irish defense. ''We'll need to have some controlled drives and have an eye toward keeping their offense off the field,'' Kelly said.
INDEPENDENTS' TITLE: The Cougars and Irish have the best records among FBS independent teams, so some bragging rights could be at stake. ''So if you want to call this our conference championship, that might motivate us a little bit to step up and play,'' wide receiver Skyler Ridley said.
Not much is at stake in the game, though, with BYU expected to play in the Fight Hunger Bowl while Notre Dame waits to see which conferences can't fill their bowl slots.
While Notre Dame is dropping rivalry games, like Michigan, so it can play five games a year against ACC opponents starting next season, Mendenhall would like to see the Broncos develop a rivalry with the Irish. The schools have a contract to play four more times, with two home games and two away games, although the remaining games haven't been scheduled. The Cougars are 2-5 all-time against Notre Dame.
BADGER PROBLEM: BYU safety Chris Badger initially signed with Notre Dame in 2010, enrolled early and then went on a two-year Mormon mission. He redshirted last season and before this season transferred to BYU to be near his ill mother and received a waiver to immediately play for the Cougars. Kelly said he's not worried about Badger knowing the Irish signals, saying they are ''fairly complicated'' and he wouldn't have time to let the offense know the call. ''With an up-tempo offense, I guess the short answer would be, we've taken measures and we're not concerned about it.''