If there are any BYU football players who don’t like flying, the last month and a half has been a dream.
But that all changes starting this week.
The Cougars will get back on their charter plane for the first time since the disappointing return trip from Virginia at the end of August as they head off to Houston to play another Cougar team (1:30 p.m. MDT, ESPNEWS).
Since that point, BYU has played four home games (Texas, Utah, Middle Tennessee and Georgia Tech) and made the relatively short trip to Logan to take on Utah State.
BYU players Monday said they’re pretty excited about the challenge of heading off to another part of the country this Saturday with trips to Madison, Wisc., and South Bend, Ind., on the horizon.
“It’s going to be really exciting,” said BYU senior defensive back Skye PoVey. “It’s one of the benefits of being an independent team. We get to play everywhere in some really fun places.”
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall agreed that these types of games are one of the benefits of being an independent program.
“I like independence because we have the chance to play on the biggest stages with more flexibility than we’ve had before,” he said. “Anytime we have a chance to play in a unique venue, I like it.”
Mendenhall road games are an exciting aspect of the college football experience.
“It's exciting to change venues,” he said. “We love playing at home but part of college football is getting to travel and getting to play in unique cities. It's not like in the Mountain West where we'd go to the same places year in and year out. We get to go to new places each year, which I kind of like and I think the players do too.”
BYU sophomore quarterback Taysom Hill said he likes playing games both at home and on the road.
“I love going into hostile environments,” he said. “It’s a fun atmosphere to go play on the road but that being said I love our stadium and playing at home. It’s good to mix it in, so it’s an atmosphere I look forward to.”
One of the added perks for the team from Provo is another chance to play in an NFL venue. Houston plays its home games at Reliant Stadium, which is also the home of the Houston Texans.
“It’s definitely a fun experience,” PoVey said. “My first year here I got to go to Cowboys Stadium and I’m a Cowboys fan, so that was a really cool experience. It’s like a step up but as far as the game goes it really has no effect on it.”
The venue isn’t nearly as important to BYU as getting ready for a pretty good Houston team.
“It’s cool, but we’re more focused on the opponent,” said BYU senior Daniel Sorensen.
Once they get on the field, who and where the team is playing gets crowded out by the game itself.
“100 yards is 100 yards,” PoVey said. “It’s all the same.”
Sometimes leaving town can help players zero in on the game itself and perform at a higher level.
“A lot of times it increases focus, so I think our guys are kind of looking forward to going on the road,” Mendenhall said.
Fua honored: BYU junior linebacker Alani Fua proved Saturday evening in the 38-20 victory over Georgia Tech that Kyle Van Noy isn't the only Cougar defender who can get to the end zone.
Fua had a key 51-yard interception return for a touchdown that helped keep BYU comfortably in front.
For that effort, along with his pass breakup and two solo tackles, Fua was recognized on Monday as the Independent Defensive Player of the week. It is the second time this season Fua has received the award.
Other players recognized were Army RB Terry Baggett (Offense) and Idaho K/P Austin Rehkow (special teams).
Hadley starting status still uncertain: BYU senior linebackers Spencer Hadley and Tyler Beck were both listed as possible starter (designated by “or”) on the probable depth chart released on Monday.
Mendenhall said a decision on who would start hadn’t been made yet.
“We haven’t decided on personnel groups yet for this week,” he said. “They throw the football a lot with a lot of four wide receiver sets, so there will be multiple personnel groups we’ll have and he’ll figure in somewhere.”
Injury update: Mendenhall said that BYU junior safety Craig Bills had cleared the concussion protocol after getting injured on the very first defensive play against Georgia Tech. He should be ready to go against Houston.
The word wasn’t quite as positive on sophomore center Terrance Alletto, who Mendenhall said has been suffering from recurring stingers and thus hasn’t been able to be on the field. Edward Fusi and Brayden Kearsley have been replacing him.
On the plus side, however, BYU senior defensive lineman Eathyn Manumaleuna — who limped off the field during the game against the Yellow Jackets and played sparingly after that point — should be fine, according to Mendenhall.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.