LAS VEGAS — An emotional Bronco Mendenhall took the postgame podium for the last time as the head coach of BYU football on Saturday night.

While his tenure at the helm of the Cougars ended with five straight losses to Utah, Mendenhall made one thing clear.

“I leave with no regret,” he said. “I think I’ve left the program as a team that wins about nine games a year that has players that want to be at BYU because of the standards. I think there’s an outstanding foundation in place for someone else to come and put their stamp on it.”

That someone else is Oregon State assistant Kalani Sitake, as BYU officially announced the hire after the game.

When asked what he was feeling emotionally, Mendenhall took his time and had large breaks in his response, appearing to hold back tears.

“I don’t know how to describe it. Grateful is certainly the starting point,” he said. “Humbled and proud just watching these guys battle. We did lose the game, but I’m taking with me a pretty good going away present from watching them try that hard.”

Down 35-0 in the first quarter, BYU could have given up and let the game get even more out of hand. Instead, they pushed back and made Utah fans nervous.

“I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of my team,” said Mendenhall. “I don’t think there could have been a more difficult challenge. Our team tried really hard all the way to the very end.”

As his time at BYU ends, Mendenhall also expressed his appreciation for the Cougar fans. 

“My experience here has been overwhelmingly positive,” he said. “I appreciate the intense support and passion for BYU football and the standards. I’m lucky to have been part of a fan base that cares that much about success and about winning.”

After spending more than a decade in Provo developing relationships with his players, Mendenhall will now take over Virginia’s football program, where he hopes to do the same.

“I’m anxious to help another group of young men win. I’m anxious to help them grow and develop,” Mendenhall said. “I’m anxious to build relationships, and that comes with time. I’m hopeful I can teach another group of kids to try really hard and to never give up. When you do that, you’re going to win your share.”

That same mentality is what Mendenhall hopes he leaves as his legacy at BYU.

“I tried hard. That’s what I care about most — being singular in focus and trying really hard,” he said. “I know that wins and losses is how a coach is evaluated, and I get that, and we’ve won enough that I’ve been able to stay at a place for a long time. I’m thankful for that. Along the way, though, being completely engrossed and giving everything I’ve had to a given team and a group of players is really where the reward is.”

Contact sports reporter Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.

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