Utes Wynn Big Over Heaps of BYU

AP:     September 17, 2011
           Provo, UT

Utah beat BYU 54-10 in the first September meeting of the schools in nearly half a century.
 The BYU Cougars were crushed by century-old rival Utah tonight by a score of 54-10. Seven turnovers, a slew of dropped passes, several three-and-outs, and uninspired play calling doomed the Cougars on what was supposed to be their biggest home opener in decades as they entered a new phase in their program’s storied history—Independence. A riveting game through the first half, the Runnin’ Utes would go on to score 47 unanswered points en route to the largest blowout victory in the rivalry in over twenty years.

More surprising than the final score, however, was BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall’s post-game interview, where he revealed to the press his team’s “intention to lose the game and lose big.” Turning to his stable of scriptural passage and big-business buzz speak, Mendenhall laid out what he described as his “Big Picture Overarching System,” or BPOS. 

Mendenhall, typically stoic, asked the gathered media to “recall in [their] minds” his statements made at a fireside chat in Provo held the night before. During the Friday meeting, Mendenhall had chided boosters of his program for choosing to grill him on his coaching decisions in the prior week’s agonizing loss to Texas (a 17-16 decision for the UT Longhorns) instead of focusing on the “bigger picture.” 

Mendenhall facing his Pharisees and Sadducees.
Standing in front of boosters who dared question his coaching decisions “felt like I was in front of the Pharisees and the Sadducees," Mendenhall recounted. "Sometimes what play is called on third-and-20 is more important (to them) than what we're trying to do here. My hope is that you support us with your heart as you try to find what's most important in life and see the bigger picture, and join us in that purpose."[1]
Mendenhall  described the moment as “epiphonal—a ground-breaking, revelatory moment, something I thought was difficult going in, but ultimately expiatory, especially in light of the fallen nature of the boosters and fans.”

With this backdrop in mind, Mendenhall proceeded to lay out his BPOS plan for the gathered media. “It’s a three-tier system of success that we intend to implement throughout the season,” Mendenhall said. “Beginning two weeks ago with Ole Miss, we hope to continu[e] the plan throughout the rest of the year in order to help our team and our fans grasp and achieve the bigger picture and purpose of our program.” 

The Cougars coach then stepped away from the podium, pulled a velvet cord, and unveiled the three marble pillars of the BYU BPOS: Faith, Hope, and Charity. 

“Even though our fans might not have recognized it, I’m confident that our team executes our plan perfectly each week,” the coach declared. When asked to explain, Mendenhall said, “With Ole Miss, we gave our fans faith that we could win against a quality opponent; in Texas, we gave them hope that they could compete with the big names of our sport; and in Utah, we loved our enemies and turned our cheeks to those who would spitefully use us . . . we laid down our lives and our game for our fellow men.”

Heaps trips over the ball and into the endzone, leading to a Utah touchdown.
Following a brief pause to wipe away a tear and muttering that he “promised [him]self [he] wouldn’t do this,” Mendenhall then explained to bewildered reporters that he was “very proud of Jake Heaps’ performance right out of the gate,” describing the young quarterback’s opening-drive fumble and cartwheel through the endzone as “simultaneously inspired and inspiring.” 

Mendenhall also noted that he was particularly pleased with wide receiver J.D. Falslev’s second-half performance as well as that of his defense.  “Our D[efense] was pretty stingy, pretty selfish in the first half,” Mendenhall said, “but once they saw the offense, and particularly J.D., give of their hearts and of their footballs, they came around pretty quickly.”  

RB Josh Quezada giveth...
After this unveiling, Mendenhall took only a handful of questions, responding tersely to any speculation that his coaches had failed to prepare the team in the offseason and particularly in their preparation for the Utes. “I think that’s patently untrue,” Mendenhall bristled. “Like I explained to you, this game was designed and executed exactly as we planned it. If you don't understand that, that's your failing as a passive observer of the game, being acted upon instead of acting.”

When asked whether the team could have benefitted from the three practices he had canceled during fall camp because he thought the team was then “ahead of schedule,” Mendenhall scoffed. “We held scripture study those days,” Mendenhall said. “What else would you have had us do?”

...and the Utes' Derrick Shelby taketh away.
When asked whether Utah’s departure to the Pac-12 and BYU’s independence played a part in the newly devised BPOS, Mendenhall replied, “It certainly goes into the calculus, but as I’ve said before, we are a unique program with unique players and are therefore obligated to highlight that uniqueness to the world. It’s no secret that football is only our fifth priority, as it should be for our fans—who I think just don’t quite grasp what we’re trying to accomplish here on a daily basis.”

Dozens of questions were ultimately waived away by the coach, but Mendenhall did share one final thought with the press before making his exit. “The fans and boosters wanted a Holy War . . . ” Mendenhall whispered as he folded his hands and bowed his head. “I brought them a Holy War.”

[1] As quoted in “Y. coach tells fireside of bigger mission,” published by the Deseret News, Friday Sept. 16, 2011.