Game 11 Recap: Cougars roll over the Lobos

Photo by Craig Hall,
Photo by Craig Hall,

Yesterday the BYU Cougars wrapped up their final scrimmage before they face the University of Utah this Saturday in Salt Lake City. Overall, it was a very good scrimmage and the team looked like they got a lot of positive things out of it. Oh…wait. That was actually a game. For most of the game BYU looked pretty good. That’s the good news. The bad news is that UNM is now 1-10 (1-5 in the conference). I am not sure what a 40-7 win over New Mexico really tells us. I do really feel like the game looked like a scrimmage. Especially during the second quarter. On one hand, I think it was a good experience to gain momentum and confidence. On the other hand, it is important for the Cougars to understand that the rest of the road this year won’t feel like the past two weeks.

Earlier this week I said that I wanted to see at least 300 yards of offense in every game the Cougars played this year. 494 yards was a great start on that. The Cougars pounded the ball down the field for 258 yards on the ground. Quezada led the charge with 107 yards and a touchdown. The running back trio was in full effect with Di Luigi and Kariya rushing for 66 and 58 yards respectively. The coaches seemed to do a good job of rotating the responsibilities around with these three and keeping the defense on their toes. Di Luigi got some third down touches and at a couple of points in the game ran with some real power against the UNM defense.

Cody Hoffman played a great game. His routes looked good and he was on the same page with Jake Heaps. He is a quick receiver with strong hands and on one touchdown grab literally wrestled the ball out of the air sending the defender to the turf and taking the ball into the endzone for 6. Jake Heaps took advantage of UNM’s lackluster defense and threw the ball to 10 different receivers on his way to 231 yards and 2 TD’s. I really like how ball distribution in the passing game has developed over the past several weeks. The receivers are taking turns making plays and giving Heaps multiple options from the pocket. He appeared to gain more confidence this week.

Manumaleuna is the man. The interception on UNM’s opening drive was a great play. It was a very athletic play for a man his size. The pass should never have been thrown but this is one example of how the Cougar defense took advantage of the freshman mistakes that the UNM quarterback was making. On UNM’s next drive the ball got stripped and BYU recovered the fumble. The defense looked very good early in the game as they have all year. The solid defensive play coupled with a strong running game has put the team into very good situations early in games for a few weeks in a row. This is a team sport and right now both sides of the ball are doing things to help the other.

I don’t want to overstate this but it is important that we all keep in mind that this was New Mexico. They have only won a single game all year and will most likely be destroyed even worse this next weekend. This was a good opportunity for BYU to fine tune some things and get the offense into the rhythm that has been building for the past few weeks.

The Cougars did something that very few people really expected 5 weeks into the season. They became bowl eligible. This continues Bronco’s streak of bowl eligibility and demonstrates that this team really turned things around. This team has seen a complete transformation over the course of the season. In the long term this bodes well for the program and some of the young talent on the team. It also bodes well for some of the coaching staff that struggled with the challenges of a young and inexperienced team. In the short term this transformation bodes well for the next challenge. Playing Utah in Salt Lake City will be no small task for a freshman quarterback. The good news for him is that the pieces around him seem to be coming together and the defense has played very consistently. This game was a good game to play the week before Utah. Finally the Cougars feel like they have some momentum and can carry that with them up to Salt Lake City.

Go Cougs!

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  • Ben

    The referees had a lot to do with the dysfunctional feeling of the game. They were very unsure of themselves and wasted a lot of time consulting with one another while I was freezing my butt off.

    • MattM

      Agreed. I’ll have some comments about that in this week’s Rise and Shout podcast. You should check it out. (Shameless plug).

      • Ben

        I always do. I’d be a great special guest (shameless plug)

  • To quote you, “The defense looked very good early in the game as they have all year.”

    UH…I swear BYU’s defense didn’t look good earlier this year, prompting a defensive coaching change…

    Or were you saying their defense has looked good all year early in the game? Still, I don’t think the defense started looking good until Bronco took it back.

    • MattM

      I was saying that they have looked good early in games. I think we can all agree that they have been very good in the first quarter since Bronco took over. As was noted in the post game notes (found at “New Mexico rushed for 30 yards in the first quarter, the most allowed by BYU in the last six games. In the previous five games before today, the BYU defense held its opponents to totals of minus-10 (SDSU), 20 (TCU), minus-31(Wyoming), zero (UNLV) and eight (Colorado St.) yards rushing, respectively.”

      They have been awesome in the first quarter since the change. Agreed.

      What about before the change? They held Washington to 6 rushing yards in the first quarter. There was a special teams safety when UW was forced to punt from deep in their own territory. Defensively, the Washington game was as exciting as shutting down any of the teams BYU has played in the last couple of weeks. Air Force was a defensive disaster. However, the real problems came out in the second quarter. In the first quarter the defense gave up 59 yards on the ground but only a touchdown. They actually led that game at the end of the first quarter 14-7. In the second quarter against AFA they gave up 107 rushing yards (almost twice as many yards) and 14 points. The second quarter was when the wheels came off. The yardage was not as good against FSU in the first quarter (63 yards rushing and 58 yards passing) but they only gave up a field goal. FSU then scored 14 points in the third quarter. The first quarter against Nevada was not great. But against USU they only gave up 10 points in the first quarter as opposed to 14 in the second.

      As offenses adjusted to what Jaime was doing, the poor tackling, bad team play and weak scheming got exposed. He never had answers for offensive adjustments. I don’t feel like any of these games got out of control early. They were at their best early in the game in those losses. But at this point almost half of the season has been under Bronco Mendenhall. “Very good” is more descriptive of lately. “Very good” may be an overstatement for some of the early games. But I still feel like they have looked good early in most of their games this year.