Don't go dumping orange juice over your head quite yet, but there's reason to celebrate. It's just 13 days, starting this lovely Sunday morning, to a real kickoff.
"Hallelujah," BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said Saturday after his team's final scrimmage.
Oh, wait, he was talking about the injury report — which was basically empty?
Good for him, and the healthy Cougars. And here's 12 other thoughts as they're less than two weeks from heading to the Grove at Ole Miss.
12. Lark over Nelson? Give James Lark more repetitions, and he's got a chance to run the offense better if something happens to Jake Heaps. But will BYU allow that? Probably not. The question remains what happens with Riley Nelson in the backup spot. He simply can't make some of the throws. Coaches can tap dance around this all they want. But the offense has to change if Nelson's in charge. Nelson can win you a game (say, Heaps goes out during one — Nelson should be the first substitute) but Lark has more potential if given a greater chance for the long haul. The toughest issue right now is all of the wild-card stuff Nelson is capable of. Do the Cougars really want/need it? After all, if Heaps is your guy why take the ball out of his hands at any time?
11. Better up the middle: BYU looks more comfortable using more of the field right now. In his only drive Saturday, Heaps threw a beautiful ball to running back JJ Di Luigi. It picked up about 20 yards. It wasn't a desperate, about-to-get-sacked play, either. New offensive coordinator Brandon Doman beautifully moved a variety of targets around the field and Di Luigi — BYU's leader in pass receptions last year — was wide open for a well timed pass.
10. It still would be surprising if Di Luigi's statistics were so high this year, considering Heaps is more comfortable with the offense and appears to have more options. But that he's really on the same page with his top running back, in a variety of ways, is a nice sign.
9. Did new receivers coach Ben Cahoon bring some special Canadian glue after retiring from his pro career? The CFL legend has guys catching all sorts of passes, a prime task since camp started Aug. 6. Heaps wouldn't take the credit. But one thing's for sure: The routes are being run in a way that is making the sophomore quarterback much more comfortable at hitting his spots, and for the most part he is.
8. And the group is generally more alert, too. There was one case of a receiver getting hit in the head with a pass, because he wasn't looking when Lark fired. But JD Falslev also caught a tip-drill ball after he clanked off a teammate and a defender.
7.. Speak softly, and...: I'm liking Daniel Sorensen in his mission to replace Andrew Rich at kat safety. He reads the passing game well and even had a "wow" moment Saturday when he rushed up to help defend against the run, and he absolutely slammed the ball carrier, eliciting a lot of cheers from the defensive sideline. Sorensen didn't exactly want to make the switch from linebacker last December, upon returning home from an LDS mission. But he has to be glad it happened. The Cougars are stacked at LB, and his physical talents merit his current spot.
6. Ready to go: Mendenhall has hastened the time until his team will start preparing for the Sept. 3 opener in the deep south. Now, the Cougars will start thinking about Ole Miss on Monday. It was expected to be next Thursday. Mendenhall is 56-21 and players mostly revere him. He's saying they're ahead of schedule compared to basically all of his past teams. Heady stuff. That's a big confidence boost to a still-young team. Since taking a greater role with the team last October, Mendenhall's watched this group grow up fast.
5. A quick teaser: Ole Miss is coached by Houston Nutt, 53. What program did he help build from the ground floor, if only for a short time? Answer below.
4. Mark Weber isn't from Utah but has grown to love the area. The fifth-year assistant loves tooling around on his motorcycle. And the workplace couldn't get much better. He chided valuable blocker Terence Brown for being slightly late to start warm-ups before the scrimmage. Weber is working with some NFL-caliber talent, so apparent at the scrimmage as huge holes were a norm.
"We've got a really solid group," said the on-field leader of the unit, senior left tackle Matt Reynolds. "Four returning starters that have played in a whole lot of games, a whole of situations — a lot of bad things, a lot of good things. Any time you get in that situation, you're going to have an improved group."
3. There could be a coach in waiting on the roster. He's a chip off the old block. Matthew Edwards, LaVell's grandson, stripped off his shoulder pads midway through the practice and helped out with the huddles from behind the offense. Keep his name in mind a while down the road.
2. Remember the old days, before Justin Sorensen's mission, when the kicker was known for riding unicycles down mountain-resort ski runs? Well, now he's not even wearing a helmet on the field. Well, back up a second. He's temporarily kicking without headgear because some cuts suffered during a weightlifting accident a few days ago would be aggravated (stitches pulled loose) if he did. But that's not the only reason to keep an eye on him. He's fun to watch, if still erratic.
BYU ended its scrimmage with a drill in which Mendenhall gave the offense the ball at the 35-yard line with 30 seconds left. Heaps was instructed to get the first snap, move the ball to the middle of the field, and take a knee. The clock still ran as the units switched for the kick. Sorensen blasted a 53-yard line drive that sailed through the uprights. He is simply a game-changer. Sometimes, he's brutally hooked extra points. But the upside is definitely there.
1. Boise State. Nutt was the coach in 1997 after four years at Murray State. He spent one season in Idaho before returning to his native Arkansas to lead the Razorbacks. BYU's about ready to start talking about an opponent, so it seemed fair to start here, too.