By Ryan Haddox
When BYU finally made the decision to take its football team out of the Mountain West Conference in the summer of 2010 and on into the unknown land of conference independence, everyone had an opinion.
Some fans gleamed with excitement, some were fraught with uncertainty. The BYU board of trustees, the school administration, the coaching staff and everyone else in Provo had an opinion on what they were jumping into.
One perspective that got mildly over looked that summer is an important one, the player perspective. While a football game is a football game, going from playing for conference championships and standings is a different world than playing independent of a conference.
Senior left tackle Matt Reynolds acknowledged the difference in going from a conference schedule to an independent schedule, and said there was an adjustment.
“The biggest difference just comes from playing teams you’re not used to playing. When we were in the Mountain West, we played San Diego State, Air Force, and all those guys every year, and you get to know their offenses and defenses very well. You get to know the teams very well. Now the challenge is playing teams like Ole Miss, Texas, and every game kind of becomes a preseason game or a postseason game because you’re playing people that you’re just not used to playing. It’s been different.”
While playing a vastly different schedule certainly has had its affects on the Cougars, one would seem to think it would be a bit more difficult to get up for a game every week without any conference tie-ins, but Reynolds dispelled that, saying, “We want to play the best we can regardless of where it is, and I think it’s a bit more motivational if anything because we want to prove that we can play anyone outside of the Mountain West and win.”
While BYU certainly showed the country this year that it can hang with some of the big boys of college football, beating Ole Miss in Oxford and narrowly losing to Texas in Austin, all while posting 10 total wins, there is no doubt that the boys in Provo had an atypical season. With coach Bronco Mendenhall at the helm and solid senior leadership from guys like Matt Reynolds, BYU turned the uncertainty into a positive, and the future is bright for the Cougars.