I liked Rey Brathwaite. OK, I LOVED Rey Brathwaite. He was phenomenal in this game BYU would not win this game without him. The comparisons to Ronney Jenkins have started, but it's not a fair comparison for the following reasons:
* Brathwaite can take a hit far better than Jenkins ever could. He can push oncoming linebackers forward after taking their initial hit. When a Lobo defensive back hit Brathwaite when he was going out of bounds, rather than shrinking or even falling back, Brathwaite stayed up and shoved the defensive back to get off him.
* Brathwaite blocks far better than Jenkins ever could. Jenkins hated to block and often wouldn't do so. Congruent with Brathwaite's ability to take a hit is his ability to effectively pass block when he has to.
* Brathwaite can make people miss in the backfield better than Jenkins did. He has better lateral movement. Don't get me wrong, Jenkins was a tremendous back that could bust it to the outside and break it open better than just about any back that ever played at BYU. However, Jenkins played behind arguably the best offensive line at BYU in recent memory. Three of the starting five offensive linemen on that team became regulars in the NFL. If I could take either Jenkins or Brathwaite as my running back, I'd take Brathwaite.
I liked the fact that BYU did not turn the ball over. This was HUGE. Coach Crowton stated in the post game interview that both sides were playing like they were waiting for the other team to make a mistake. BYU didn't and played the entire game without a turnover. Any turnovers would have likely determined the winner.
I didn't like the offensive production on short yardage situations, especially during the first quarter. The one-back toss sweep on third and one yielded nothing. This was most probably due to New Mexico's 3-3-5 defense as anything else. Ask USC and Georgia Tech about the effectiveness of this defensive scheme against their vaunted running attacks.
BYU was again stalled after Brathwaite's brilliant cut back run that put the Cougars at New Mexico's two yard line. The Lobos stopped BYU on first and goal on their one yard and Naufahu Tahi lost yards on several carries. This short yardage weak game is a carry over from last season and it has to improve. Not scoring on that first and goal situation could have proved devastating. Luckily, the Cougars at least ended up with a Matt Payne field goal. As BYU morphs itself into the good team, I believe they will be, they can't continue this. Good teams pound it in those situations, especially with two mammoth offensive guards at their disposal.
I liked the fact that BYU's defense gave up a mere seven points. You can say what you want about them giving up too many rushing yards or missing more tackles than the first two games combined, but the fact is that they only gave up seven points. They were stingy when they needed to be, especially when you consider how long they were on the field during the second half. The defense's performance was relatively impressive.
I didn't like the pressure on the quarterback. Granted, Mendenhall was relatively conservative in his play calling due to the nature of the game, I'd like to see more pressure from the front three or four down linemen on passing plays.
I liked New Mexico's offensive line. I thought they were a bit too hyped going in, but learned that they were not. They were very effective pass blocking and run blocking, particularly from their right side of the line. New Mexico has, arguably, the best offensive line in the Mountain West.
I didn't like the containment to the outside on running plays by BYU's defense. New Mexico had 41 runs by their running back by my count. They ran it 19 times up the middle for 46 yards, 10 times for 42 yards to the left side of their line and to our right side of the defense and 12 times for 77 yards to the opposite side. Containment on the outside needs work.
I liked the fact that BYU did not give up any runs more than 12 yards. Again, I credit Mendenhall's defensive scheme. Given the fact that New Mexico attempted 41 running plays, that was very impressive. I didn't like the fact that New Mexico could apparently gather up a punt on the one yard line, fall into the end zone WITH the ball and the official calls the balls down on BYU's one yard line. This was a laughable call at best. Luckily, it did not prove costly.
I also did not like New Mexico taking after-pass chips at Berry and Mortensen all night, but when Tanner does the same to Casey Kelley on a failed third and long late in the game, the officials penalize BYU and give New Mexico a critical first down.
Last rant about the officiating: I don't like holding calls or officials being too controlling in calling this penalty. However, call something! I've watched the game three times now and holding was prevalent along New Mexico's offensive line throughout the game. Props to New Mexico, they learned the refs weren't calling holding penalties and ran with it. No props to the officials for keeping their flags in their pockets. When you see BYU defenders get pulled back and down from behind by offensive linemen, that's a BIG clue.
I liked the fact that Todd Mortensen went in and didn't lose the game. Mortensen stayed within himself and played about as well as could be expected of him. He didn't try to do anything to lose the game – and that's all Crowton wanted from him. The pass he threw to Kyle Wilson with two Lobos baring down on him was very impressive. Props to Mortensen for going into the game in a very difficult situation and allowing Brathwaite and the defense to win the game by staying within himself.
This was a huge win in my opinion. It was extremely ugly, but BYU hanging on to win this with all that went wrong is a sign of a good team. If Berry and Jackson remain healthy, last night's game doesn't go down to the wire. Good teams overcome adversity, step up when the chips are down while building and demonstrating character and win these types of ball games.
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