Bronco Mendenhall Needs to Rein in BYU Dirty Play

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Bronco Mendenhall announced Monday offensive lineman Ului Lapuaho will not face suspension for BYU’s showdown with UCLA Saturday despite clearly punching a Boise State player in the crotch.

Not going too hard in the pile, not questionably placing his hand while scrambling for the ball. Lapuaho straight balls his fist, winds back and delivers an uppercut

That’s a cheap, cowardly move that deserves more than a 15-yard penalty and some extra gassers at practice.

Punching south of the equator is a disqualification in professional wrestling, but not for BYU. Odd Earl Hebner would have stricter rules than Bronco Mendenhall.

As an isolated incident, Lapuaho’s disgusting play and Mendenhall’s internal handling would not be so egregious. The BYU coach isn’t alone in handling such an incident rather lackadaisical; the Cougars’ Week 3 opponent, UCLA, and head coach Jim Mora opted not to suspend defensive end Eddie Vanderdoes for throwing a punch last season in a loss to Oregon.

However, this makes three consecutive games dating back to last December’s Miami Beach Bowl loss to Memphis in which a BYU player has done something especially heinous.

The brawl that marred an otherwise remarkable bowl game wasn’t a one-sided affair. Memphis players threw punches right alongside the Cougars, including those who faced suspension for Week 1 at Nebraska.

However, Kai Nacua — a hero of BYU’s upset of Boise State with three interceptions — threw a punch at the back of a Memphis player’s head after taking shots himself.

Had Nacua connected cleanly with the sucker punch, he could have done serious, even life-threatening damage.

Likewise, in Week 1 at Nebraska, Jordan Preator’s hit on Huskers tight end David Sutton was low, late and potentially career-threatening. Sutton’s injured as a result.

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Suspensions aren’t a cure-all for rule-breaking. As mentioned, Bronco Mendenhall suspended those most involved in the Memphis brawl, and BYU remains firmly at the center of these dirty plays two games into the 2015 season.

In fact, Nacua was involved in his own questionable play Saturday, striking a Boise State player in the head out-of-bounds. The Memphis punch was retaliation. This looks a lot more like just an old-fashioned dirty play.

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At game-speed, these plays are tough to judge. At a certain point, though, the benefit of the doubt wears thin to where these are no longer isolated incidents, and rather the MO of a dirty team.

When these things continue to happen for a team routinely ranked at the top of college football for penalty yardage (fourth in 2014; 11th in 2013; 15th in 2009), it’s not difficult to glean a correlation and it’s on Bronco Mendenhall to rein this kind of play in.