BYU Outlasts Lobos in 3-3-5 Titans Struggle

The game lived up to its defensive billing and BYU limped out of Albuquerque last night after outlasting New Mexico 10-7 to take the early lead in the Mountain West Conference race.

The Cougars lost three more starters for up to four weeks, bringing to six the number of preseason BYU starters that will miss their match up against Stanford next Saturday and possibly beyond. Cornerback Brandon Heaney, linebacker Paul Walkenhorst are out for the season with injuries. Running back Marcus Whalen is out with a hairline fracture in his foot.

BYU head football coach Gary Crowton confirmed that quarterback Matt Berry sustained a broken bone in his throwing hand and is scheduled for surgery. He will miss 2-4 weeks.

Also expected to miss next week's PAC-10-MWC match-up are offensive line leader Scott Jackson (knee) and starting fullback Taufui Vakapuna (knee).

The Cougars can credit their close win to the dazzling legs of tailback Reynaldo Brathwaite, who ended the game with 169 yards on 19 carries, three pass receptions for 18 yards and he completed a critical first down pass to Toby Christensen that sealed the game for BYU with less than two minutes left in the game. Christensen led all BYU receivers with four catches for 46 yards. In one first quarter play, Brathwaite scampered for 89 sizzling yards in the run of the game.

Equally impressive for BYU was All-American Matt Payne's well placed punts that continuously pinned the Lobos inside their 20 yard line.

Brathwaite was the only one of five Cougars with rushing stats that gained positive yardage. Back up quarterback Todd Mortensen lost six yards on one rushing attempt; tailbacks Naufahu Tahi was -4 yards on four attempts and Thomas Stancil was -1 yard on one rush. The injured Vakapuna also posted -3 yards on one rush for the night.

Crowton visibly breathed a sigh of relief as he crossed the field to shake hands with New Mexico coach Rocky Long following the game. A crowd of 33,306, the eighth largest in New Mexico history, was on hand.

This was BYU's 21st win over New Mexico in 23 previous meetings. On the stat sheet, the Lobos outshined the Cougars in the following categories: First Downs - NM 18 - BYU 14; Net Yards – NM 312 – BYU 308; Rushing Yards – NM 171 – BYU 136; and Time of Possession – NM 32:18 – BYU 27:42. BYU similarly bested USC last week in all major offensive statistical categories, but lost going away 35-18 at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Berry injured his hand on the helmet of an onrushing Lobo player in the second quarter. He did not play in the second half, but still ended the game with 12-20 passes for 102. Mortensen was 7-19 for 44 yards and Lobo quarterback Casey Kelly was 11-23 for 141 yards.

BYU's freshman tight end sensation Daniel Coats was stifled all game by the Lobos' excellent defense and had no receptions. The Cougars scored their points on a Berry to freshman tight end Philip Niu's 29-yard touchdown reception with 6:05 minutes left in the second quarter. Payne kicked a field goal earlier. BYU, severely hampered without Berry, Vakapuna and Jackson in the offensive line up, did not score in the second half.

For New Mexico, running back DonTrell Moore scored on a three-yard touchdown run with 4:38 left in the third quarter. Moore rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries.

Kat backs Jon Burbidge, James Allen and Aaron Francisco had impressive showings, pressing quarterback Kelley into overthrown and underthrown passes. As impressive as the Cougar defense was overall, shades of last season reared its ugly head with poor tackling by a number of Cougar players.

Meanwhile, the Cougars continued their troubles with penalties. They were penalized seven times for 74 yards while New Mexico was only penalized six times for 32 yards.

BYU's record is now 2-1, 1-0. New Mexico is 1-2 and 0-1 thus far for the season. 10 different Cougar receivers caught passes, while only five had pass receptions for the Lobos.

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