Following two consecutive 11-2 seasons and two bowl wins against Pac-10 teams, BYU chose to start the 2008 season with the tagline, "The Quest for Perfection."
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall loves to find ways to inspire his team. Last year he used the headline "Fully Invested" to teach his team the dedication required to perform to their full potential.
If you look back at the last two seasons, you will see that there was a chance that BYU could have ended the regular season undefeated with hopes for a BCS bowl. But they struggled early. These four games were all on the road, early in the season, and against non-conference foes.
In 2006 it was Arizona and Boston College that proved to be the stumbling blocks. Arizona won on a last-second field goal, and the Cougars pushed Boston College to overtime before falling. In 2007 they started the season by beating Arizona at home but then lost the next two on the road, at UCLA and at Tulsa.
Looking at the first few games of this season, there is much to ponder. Will this team be able to complete their quest? Or will they find themselves in the same situation as the past two years—wondering what cost them their dream season and a berth in a BCS bowl?
Here they stand at 3-0. In the first game they dispatched Northern Iowa 41-17. Then in week two, they overcame Jake Locker and the Washington Huskies 28-27, due to a controversial call on Locker.
Some say the 15 yards set up the game-winning block. But at that execution, we will never know if Jan Jorgensen would still have gotten to the ball at the normal PAT spot.
After the Washington game, many started to question the team. With another Pac-10 team heading to Provo, it looked like the Cougars still needed to prove themselves.
BYU wanted to make sure no one would question the caliber of this team. Playing near to perfection, they dismantled UCLA in a 59-0 rout. BYU quarterback Max Hall threw for seven touchdowns before leaving the game with eight minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Cougars still have nine games left. As we look forward, what are the possibilities? Can they run the table? Can they be the next Boise State? The next Hawaii?
One strength that has given this team a boost is their offense. Max Hall is surrounded by many great athletes that seem to be running on full cylinders now.
The biggest point of the offense starts with their line. If you watched BYU last season, you cringed every time you saw Max Hall get crushed by a blindside hit. This season they have made a turn for the better. This offensive line has not given up a sack or been called for holding yet.
That amount of time has allowed Hall to find his receivers and opened up holes for Harvey Unga and Fui Vakapuna to rush through. Not to mention Hall has targets like Austin Collie, Dennis Pitta, and Michael Reed pulling in his passes.
This isn't to say that the defense is not worth mentioning. David Nixon, Jan Jorgensen, and Ian Dulan are part of a defense that has been swarming against opposing offenses. Toss in their special teams play, such as the blocked kick, and this team looks very impressive.
But that does not mean this season will finish as BYU imagines it. Tough tests lie ahead. Having run the table in the Mountain West two years in a row, they will have a big target on their backs as they begin conference play.
On top of that, two of the biggest competitors for the Mountain West crown and a BCS bid, TCU and Utah, have the Cougars visiting them this season. It is a high possibility that this year's "Holy War" will have more than bragging rights at stake. Both teams may be undefeated when they take the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Nov. 22.
As they look at the journey ahead of them, Coach Mendenhall and his Cougars have many obstacles to prepare for. They must stay focused as a team and continue their execution. The offense must continue to run smoothly and spread the ball around. The defense must always keep the ball in front of them and not give up big plays.
If that happens, they may see their "Quest" end in "Perfection."
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