BYU vs. New Mexico: The Breakdown

The Cougars face the Lobos today for their final game of the year at LaVell Edwards Stadium. While New Mexico started out slowly, they are making what has become a very common late-season run and look to finish strong. The G-man breaks down every position and gives his thoughts on what will transpire during today's game.

Quarterback:

New Mexico: The Lobos have had their share of misfortune at the quarterback position seeing their assumed starter Cole McKamey go down with a season-ending injury two games into the season. Since then, they have made due with promising freshman Donovan Porterie and senior Chris Nelson.

Nelson started the first four games in place of McKamey, but gave way to Porterie for the past four games. Porterie suffered an ankle injury last week that may keep him out of tomorrow's game. The decision to play Porterie looks to be a gametime decision.

BYU: What more can you say about John Beck? He's put forth a string of some of the most consistent starts of any BYU quarterback in the school's history. Beck is far and away the best quarterback in the conference and one of the best in the entire country.

Conclusion: The Lobos have managed an average of 209 yards passing per game despite their quarterback woes. As mentioned they have made some hay in their more recent games. Given Porterie's uncertain status fans may not see New Mexico's passing arsenal fully loaded.

Edge: BYU

Running Back:

New Mexico: Replacing Dontrelle Moore is no easy task, and the Lobos discovered that this season. They feature only one RB who has gained over 100 yards this season in sophomore Rodney Ferguson. Ferguson is a big and bruising-type back weighing in at 226 pounds. He averages 4.2 yard per carry this season to go with his 784 yards and five touchdowns.

BYU: Curtis Brown has shouldered more of the running load due to Fui Vakapuna being slowed by his high ankle sprain. Vakapuna did not practice much again this week and could be limited in his reps once again. Meanwhile Manase Tonga has proven very capable in the carries he's been given.

Conclusion: Alhough Ferguson has outdistanced any of the Cougar running backs on an individual basis three is better than one. This becomes increasingly apparent as Curtis Brown alone has tripled Ferguson's production catching the ball out of the backfield.

Edge: BYU

Wide Receivers:

New Mexico: The Lobos feature two 6-foot-3 junior receivers on the outside in Marcus Smith and Travis Brown. They have 92 catches between them for 10 touchdowns. While Brown is their possession-type receiver Smith is who they will look to deep and for big plays.

BYU: The Cougars rotate four receivers who have collectively accounted for 81 grabs and nine touchdowns of their own. The Cougar wide receivers have been a consistent and productive unit throughout the year.

Conclusion: While the Lobos have nosed out the Cougar wideouts in overall production, the Cougar wide receivers often give way to other options on the passing tree that the Lobo offense does not enjoy. Both units are capable and productive units.

Edge: Push

Tight Ends:

New Mexico: The Lobos starting tight end is John Mulchrone, who catches around two balls per game and has one touchdown on the year. The Lobos, like most teams, use their tight end primarily as a blocker.

BYU: For the last time (well, third to last time), the Cougar offense features its tight ends as primary pass options. Jonny Harline is holding steady as BYU's second-leading receiver and top touchdown producer through the air at 40 receptions and seven touchdowns respectively.

Conclusion: The Cougar tight ends are primary offensive weapons while the Lobo tight ends are auxiliary weapons.

Edge: BYU

Offensive Line:

New Mexico: The Lobos feature and enormous offensive line with each starter weighing in at over 300 pounds. It is a line that includes three juniors and two seniors. Opponents have sliced through the Lobo offensive front for 38 sacks. Meanwhile the Lobo front produces an average of less than 100 yards rushing per game. Of course, the almost four sacks given up per game contributes to the low rushing average.

BYU: The Cougar offensive line is quietly chugging along giving John Beck good protection while mounting a respectable running attack. After a slow start, Jake Kuresa is starting to assert himself as a dominant lineman in the past few games.

Conclusion: 38 sacks allowed compared to just 12 for BYU; 92.9 yards rushing per game compared to 142.9 for the Cougars.

Edge: BYU

Defensive Line:

New Mexico: The Lobo defensive ends have accounted for 8.5 sacks through the season thus far. Tyler Donaldson and Michael Tuohy have been very productive players on the ends of New Mexico's defensive front. The Lobo D-line is very light with their nose tackle weighing just 264 pounds and both their ends well under 250 pounds.

BYU: The Cougar defensive line has not put up the collective stats of the Lobo front, but they have paved the way for some very impressive individual numbers for the Cougar linebackers. It is a unit that has seen noticeable progression throughout the season despite the loss of fab freshman Ian Dulan.

Conclusion: Both units have been productive and have similar numbers in run and pass defense although the Lobo unit has accounted for more sacks and overall tackles.

Edge: New Mexico

Linebackers:

New Mexico: The Lobos start three linebackers in their 3-3-5 base system. Cody Kase, Major Mosely and George Carter are those three starters. All three weigh in at under 230 pounds with Kase weighing a safety-like 212. None of them are in the top seven in total tackles on the team, which is unusual for linebackers in any system.

BYU: Game in and game out, the Cougar linebackers have proven to be tops in the conference. Cameron Jensen has really come on in recent weeks and could edge out Eric Weddle for the conference defensive player of the year if he finishes out strong.

Conclusion: The Cougar linebackers are consistent play-makers while the Lobo linebackers are far from it.

Edge: BYU

Secondary:

New Mexico: The Lobos' defensive backs are the primary play-makers in their defense. Most of the tackles are made by New Mexico's three starting safeties. Quincy Black plays the Lobo position and is far and away the team's leading tackler this season with 94 tackles already. He is flanked by O.J. Swift who is second on the team in tackles along with Tyson Ditmore who is fifth.

BYU: The Cougar secondary continues to be the story of this year's defense. They have formed into a very reliable group as opponents have found it relatively very tough to find any yardage through the air against the Cougar coverages.

Conclusion: The Lobos feature their secondary as primary play-makers in Rocky Long's aggressive 3-3-5 system, which Bronco Mendenhall abandoned just last year. Meanwhile the Cougar secondary has stepped up when they have had to, although their responsibilities differ greatly from those of the Lobo defensive backs.

Edge: Push

Predictions:

1. BYU will run for over 200 yards

The Cougar offensive line should have little trouble over-powering the Lobo's undersized defensive front and linebackers. They should be able to push around their front to the tune of well-over 200 yards as Curtis Brown breaks the Cougar all-time rushing mark before the first quarter comes to a close.

2. Justin Robinson will be tested more than he has been

Teams have stayed away from Justin Robinson for the most part this season. Given the size advantage the Lobo wideouts hold over Robinson, look for him to be tested a lot more than has been the case so far this year.

3. BYU will have more than 5 sacks

It is doubtful that the Lobos will run the ball well, and if they get behind early, they should be dropping back to pass often. Given Porterie's limited mobility if he plays and Nelson's immobility if he starts, they should give ready targets for the Cougar blitzes. Furthermore, Bronco has steadily increased the amount of blitzes in recent games and does blitz more at home than on the road.

4. The game will be closer than last week

New Mexico looks to be a stiffer challenge for BYU than Wyoming was last week. They match up better on both sides of the ball. They should hold BYU to less than 55 points and score more than 7.

Top Three

BYU's top three offensive performers other than John Beck will be Curtis Brown, Matt Allen, and McKay Jacobson.

Final Score: BYU 41 New Mexico 20

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