BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall dropped a bomb in Monday’s press conference.
He told the media that he underestimated Florida State’s talent level on offense leading up to the game in Provo last season.
BYU underestimate the talent of a program like the Seminoles? That was a stunning revelation.
Bronco said he feels that his evaluation of Florida State’s ability trickled down to his team and led to a sense of overconfidence heading into the game.
“I grossly underestimated their offensive line,” Mendenhall admitted. “They were much more athletic than I had expected and we were overconfident, and I think that I allowed our team to be overconfident.
“We played very well up to that point in the year, and so my assessment was that with very little increased attention on Florida State’s talent, that we’d be just fine.
“Well really, their offensive line, their running backs and their quarterback were all better than what I had evaluated and expected. And I didn’t prepare our team for that caliber of an opponent.
“I believed because of how we were playing, that would be taken for granted, but Florida State had better personnel than I had expected, and I think that the team fed off my evaluation.”
While the Cougars were essentially under-preparing for the Seminoles, Florida State players admitted that they had spent the good part of the two weeks leading up to the game preparing for BYU.
That looking ahead nearly cost them an embarrassing home loss to FCS opponent Jacksonville State the week before traveling to Provo, but when they arrived in Cougar Town, they smoked BYU 54-28 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the lopsided score indicated.
The Seminoles played perhaps their best game of the season, and FSU quarterback Christian Ponder toyed with the Cougar defense—throwing for an efficient 195 yards and rushing for 77 more.
“He’s (Ponder) an excellent thrower and decision maker,” Mendenhall said. “What surprised me last year, and again what caught me off guard, was his ability to scramble for first downs.
“That was very frustrating, so even when coverage held, he pulled it down and was able to run, and he was more athletic than I thought and so I underestimated his mobility.”
FSU’s offense controlled the ball for 40 of the 60 minutes of the game, converted 12-of-15 third down opportunities, and kept Max Hall and the potent Cougar offense on the sidelines for most of the game.
In fact, the Cougars didn’t stop a Seminole drive until late in the third quarter, after Florida State had already scored on its first seven drives.
So with all the talk about who the quarterback should be, everything starts with the ability of the BYU defense to get stops against Ponder and crew.
The good news is that the Seminoles have had to replace a good portion of the skill players on the offense that torched them last year.
Ponder and the rest of the Florida State offense struggled last week in a 47-17 loss to Oklahoma.
The bad news is that the entire offensive line that dominated BYU last season is back.
But regardless of who is on the field for Florida State on Saturday, you can bet the Cougars enter the game this time around with a healthy dose of respect for the Seminoles and their talent level.