PROVO, Utah - Brigham Young coach Bronco Mendenhall still remembers the boos he heard at home in his coaching debut. Two years later, nobody is booing Mendenhall.
The Cougars open their third season under Mendenhall today against Arizona, trying to extend last year’s 10-game winning streak and get some retribution for one of just two losses suffered by BYU last fall.
BYU fans are expected to pack LaVell Edwards Stadium to welcome the 2007 Cougars, who are coming off their best season in five years.
BYU has lost both season openers under Mendenhall. Arizona won 16-13 last fall on a 48-yard field goal in the final seconds and Boston College won handily 20-3 two years ago in Provo, in a very unheralded debut for Mendenhall.
Arizona’s win last year in Tucson could have been the start of another long year for BYU, which hadn’t had a winning season since 2001. Instead, the Cougars won 10 of their next 11, going unbeaten in the Mountain West Conference and capping the season with a win over Oregon in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The Cougars are relying on a new quarterback. Sophomore Max Hall will be making his first start — and playing in his first college game after a four-year hiatus. Hall originally went to Arizona State, where he redshirted in 2004, served a Mormon church mission and sat out last season under NCAA transfer rules.
Hall replaces John Beck, the second-leading passer in school history. If that isn’t enough pressure, the all-time passing leader at BYU will be there today, too. Ty Detmer’s No. 14 will be retired at halftime in a joint ceremony with Gifford Nielsen, who also wore No. 14 in the 1970s.
Arizona will unveil its new offense under coordinator Sonny Dykes, formerly of Texas Tech. Instead of building the offense around the running game, the Wildcats are expected to pass — a lot.
The Wildcats are looking for any way to invigorate the offense after averaging 16.6 points last season.
The Cougars have an idea of what Dykes has done with the offense, but aren’t quite sure what tricks he’s planning with quarterback Willie Tuitama, who missed much of last season with concussions.
This is Stoops’ fourth season at Arizona and he’s coming off his best year. Going 6-6 was progress after two straight years of finishing 3-8. Stoops has always had strong defenses, but getting above .500 in a conference like the Pac-10 will require a lot more offense than the Wildcats had a year ago.
Arizona at Brigham Young
When: 2:30 p.m. today
Where: Provo, Utah
TV/Radio: Versus/KFNX (1100 AM)