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Is BYU in a Must-Win Situation at Utah State?

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Is BYU in a Must-Win Situation at Utah State?

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in his weekly press conference this morning that his team is not in a must-win situation when they travel to Logan to take on Utah State on Friday night.

The Cougars are dealing with a rare losing streak under Mendenhall, having lost three straight games for the first time in the Mendenhall era. They now stand at 1-3 on the season.

A loss against what has been one of the worst programs in college football over the past several years could send this inexperienced group of Cougars on a downward spiral.

Bronco doesn’t see the traditional conference game as being do or die, though. “It’s certainly in my mind not a make or break game, nor are any games this season,” Bronco said.

”It’s the next chance to improve, its the next chance to measure, it’s the next chance to develop. Certainly a win is what we are shooting for and that’s what we’ll prepare for, but I  think I’ve said all along that I think this step will be a longer process than what many would like it to be, but I think the direction is the right direction.”

Mendenhall did acknowledge, however, that losing has been hard on the veterans who have been accustomed to winning.

“I would say that the more experienced players in the program (are taking the losing harder) because of what they’ve known, and what the expectations are to play at a national level and a dominate level within our league, and so I think they’re shouldering, as they should, the majority of the burden along with the coaching staff in expediting the process to get to that performance level as quickly as we can.”

The Aggies haven’t beaten the Cougars since 1993. The wild 58-56 win in Logan that year is the lone Utah State victory in the series over the last 27 years. A loss to USU could be a big blow to the psyche of the struggling Cougars.

The problem for BYU is that although Utah State is just 1-3, this team is not your typical bunch of Aggies that show up to a game expecting to get their hats handed to them.

Second year head coach Gary Andersen has USU playing with pride and belief, as was demonstrated in the Week 1, 31-24 loss at Oklahoma and their 41-24 loss at home to Fresno State, a game that was tied going into the fourth quarter.

Given the Cougars’ current lack of offensive firepower, Utah State is a real threat in Romney Stadium this week, and for the fifth game in a row the Cougars face a very mobile quarterback in USU’s Diondre Borel.

Borel is one of six active quarterbacks to pass for over 5,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards.

“Diondre is very, very mobile and certainly I think his strength is the ability to run the with the football and create, making players miss as they go back to sack him,” Mendenhall said.

“On any given play he’s kind of a threat to take it the whole way. It’s the next in a long line of active quarterbacks that we’ve played and I think they are using him effectively.”

Notes:

BYU announced this morning that nose tackle Romney Fuga’s season is over after being hit on what has to be considered one of the dirtiest plays in recent memory at Lavell Edwards Stadium.

Here is the release:

PROVO, Utah (Sept. 27, 2010) — BYU junior defensive tackle Romney Fuga will have surgery to repair a knee injury suffered Saturday during the Nevada game and will be out the remainder of the 2010 season.

An MRI revealed the injury that knocked Fuga out early in the second quarter of Saturday’s game is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) injury that requires surgery. The 6-foot-2, 307-pound native of Huntington Beach, Calif., is anticipated to return in time for 2011 fall camp.

Fuga has started all four BYU games this season anchoring the defensive front. He started seven contests while appearing in all 13 games in 2009 and played in all 13 games as a freshman in 2006 prior to serving a mission in Madagascar for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After totaling 40 tackles last year, the Academic All-Mountain West Conference defender has contributed 15 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks this season.

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It appears the injury will sideline Fuga for not only the rest of the season, but for spring camp as well next year.

Fuga’s loss is huge, and Bronco said today that the Cougars will look to true freshman Graham Rowley from Hawaii to be a part of the rotation at defensive end, while Eathyn Manumaleuna will shift back to nose tackle. Mendenhall said that the Cougars were hoping to redshirt Rowley this season.

Romney going down marks the second week in a row that BYU has lost a key player to a season-ending injury. The Cougars lost quarterback Riley Nelson for the year due to a shoulder injury sustained at Florida State.

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