BYU gets a measure of redemption

Posted by ESPN.com’s Graham Watson

All that quiet BYU had gotten used to this offseason is gone.

Not only will there be numerous questions and stories about the Cougars being the nation’s leading BCS buster, the words national championship might also be used.

“I think it not only propels us but our conference,” coach Bronco Mendenhall told ESPN sideline reporter Heather Cox. “We are fighting for credibility as a Mountain West Conference. We’re fighting for national credibility in terms of the elite level and maybe this will continue that for our league.”

Setting up a potential road to a national championship was something many of us speculated as the game approached. Even players admitted that they thought about what a win over Oklahoma could do for their season. But now that the Cougars have defeated Oklahoma 14-13 on national television, the expectations for BYU will be through the roof.

And rightfully so.

No one thought No. 20 BYU could stay with the Sooners, and for the first half, even with Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford in the game, the Cougars went toe-to-toe with the No. 3 team in the country.

I point out that BYU was able to stay with OU with Bradford in the game so that no one can use Bradford’s injury as an excuse for BYU’s win even though Mendenhall acknowledged it made a difference.

“There’s no underestimating that,” Mendenhall told Cox. “Sam Bradford is a proven winner, a fantastic young man and a great leader. It’s unfortunate anytime anyone gets hurt, but no question the game changed when he was hurt and we wish him well.”

There’s no doubt BYU came into this game a more confident team than it was a year ago and perhaps that was a product of being the underdog. Max Hall made some mistakes, but on the game-winning drive, he completed 9-of-10 passes for 73 yards and a 7-yard touchdown pass to McKay Jacobson.

This was a huge redemption game for Hall and the Cougars defense, which took the brunt of the criticism for last season’s struggles.

“We just learned by experience,” Mendenhall told Cox. “I did as a head coach as well as our team. So, I’m proud of them for the resolve they showed for our coaches and staying by me as I kept continuing to work to figure out how to improve this program and I’m excited for our program today.”

BYU, which defeated its first Top 10 team since Sept. 8, 1990, now travels to Tulane before Florida State comes to Provo.