BYU has struggled to a 2-4 record this season, but is coming off a big 24-21 win over San Diego State. Now they get a big test against No. 4 TCU. I had a chance to interview BYU safety Andrew Rich, who leads the team with 59 tackles this season. Here is a little of what he had to say:
How much did it help to have coach Bronco Mendenhall calling the plays as your new defensive coordinator?
Andrew Rich: Coach has always been a guy with great influence and him being able to work more hands on helped a lot of us. I think we got better and played harder, and I think each guy made the individual decision to give everything they had back. It was one of the toughest weeks of practice I’ve had since I’ve been here. I think it was more than necessary for the team with the growth and progress we want to make.
What was the biggest key to the way you were able to stop the run, allowing San Diego State only 53 yards on the ground?
AR: I think we gave a lot of different looks. We emphasized all week stopping the run, that’s what coach talked about all practice long -- if we were going to have a chance to win it was going to be because we stopped the run. The guys up front did a great job of controlling their gaps and playing hard and being assignment-sound. The emphasis Coach Mendenhall put on stopping the run has bled to us as players. Guys have taken it personally. We won’t have a chance if we can’t stop the run.
What was the mood like in the locker room after the win?
AR: Guys finally saw some fruits of their labor and I think that was the hard part. When you lose four straight games and you still feel like you’re working hard, there’s no reward at the end of it. To be able to win on Saturday, guys were excited. It felt as good as any win I’ve had here, knowing the struggles and the challenges we’ve had this year as a team.
How can you carry that momentum forward?
AR: You have to always remember what helped you be successful. We made a lot of mistakes, a lot of assignment mistakes, and we have a lot of room for improvement. We can’t think we’ve arrived. We’re 2-4 and going down to Texas to play one of the best teams in the country. Guys are pretty grounded and know we’re going to have to work hard to play to the best of our abilities. Guys are hungry, guys are working hard and the coaches aren’t going to let us lose sight or focus of what we have to do.
What are your thoughts on being 29-point underdogs?
AR: My dad mentioned it to me, but it hasn’t been discussed in the locker room. I just chuckled. I think we’re a better team than that, but at the same time I don’t really value the opinion of whoever says how many points we’re underdogs by. I don’t put too much stock in it. I just want to be a good teammate, go down there and play as hard as we can.
Have you thought about this being the final game against TCU as members of the Mountain West?
AR: Guys understand that this could be one of the last opportunities of their career to play TCU. I know I’ve thought about it because I’m a senior so by default it’s my last game. For the university and the BYU organization, guys are aware of that and definitely want to play their best. I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future, but it’s definitely been a great rivalry. It’s been exciting. TCU the last couple of years has been one of the best teams in the conference and has beaten us two times a row. We want to end on a sweeter note.