By Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune reporter
9:28 PM EDT, October 19, 2012
For the seventh time ever, and the first time in seven years, Notre Dame and BYU will meet in football. They are programs neck-deep in tradition. It's just that little of it involves one another.
"It's going to be a big, noisy stadium, and they are No. 5 in the country," BYU quarterback Riley Nelson said. "Other than that, I don't know much about it."
The Cougars that arrive at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday will be unrecognizable to those expecting the offensive cannonades of the past, while defense-first BYU attempts to rebound from being unrecognizable to itself one week earlier.
BYU (4-3) had given up a total of nine points over three games, and not more than 24 in a game all year, before Oregon State detonated for 42 on Saturday with a backup quarterback at the helm.
"As a defense we want to make sure that everybody knows that wasn't us," BYU linebacker Spencer Hadley said.
Even with the blowup against the Beavers, BYU has the nation's No. 7 scoring defense, allowing just 13.57 points per game. The Cougars have limited foes to single digits in four of seven games.
Hence coach Bronco Mendenhall's mission: to get a throwback performance after a performance he would like to throw back.
"I'm anxious to have our defense perform as they did the first six weeks, not as they performed last week," Mendenhall said this week.
"In reviewing the film, it was all about our execution, our precision, our concentration. The plays were defendable. … There was maybe a little overconfidence, defensively, from all the accolades. There was a little edge that was missing."
Meanwhile, BYU often takes no offense on Saturdays. From 2005 to 2009, the Cougars had a top-25 scoring offense four times, averaging at least 33 points in each of those seasons. Explosions against dreadful Hawaii and Weber State — combined one win in 2012 — have kept this offense in the top 100.
Besides the 42-24 loss to Oregon State, BYU has played two teams currently sporting a winning record and totaled 12 points. Nelson has battled injury and has thrown six touchdown passes against eight interceptions, including six picks against one score over his last two games.
"Hopefully we can put a whole game together — offense, defense, special teams, take care of the football, control field position and do all those things," Nelson said. "We've done those in spurts, but it hasn't been good enough."
BYU isn't the high-octane BYU many remember. Its only chance might be somehow repeating history Saturday.
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