The key factor for a BYU win starts with the Cougar defensive line and linebackers upfront. BYU's d-line must prepare themselves for a physical game in order to stop Ferguson and Quillen on the ground.
"They're a very physical team and Coach Rocky Long always works his team hard and has them up for the challenge," said outside linebacker David Nixon. "As a linebacker unit we first have to take a look at how we can stop their run. We do that with every team, but we need to really focus on that specific aspect especially with the Lobos. They have a great running back in Rodney Ferguson, who isn't really a speed guy, but he's patient and will wait for the holes to open up. When those holes do open up, he hits them hard."
The Cougars have been working hard at preparing for the running style of Ferguson and what he brings to the field. The Cougar linebackers have also been preparing for Quillen, who could be the Mountain West Conference's top fullback.
"We just have to stop the run first," said Jan Jorgensen. "That's pretty much all I can say. They have a really good running back and their whole offense revolves around him. We have to play stout with that big, physical offensive line to stop the run to make them throw the ball."
"That's one thing we as a defense have been working on pretty hard this week - is stopping the run," said Nixon. "They have some peel plays where they take big [Quillen] and try to kick out the outside linebacker and down block to run it right up the crease. We're going to try and make sure that gap isn't quite a big as it should be, but the first thing we need to do is stop the run. It's going to be smash mouth football, kind of like how it was against Air Force."
If the Cougars stifle the Lobo ground game, quarterback Donovan Porterie, who has been coached to stay in the pocket more this year than last year, will be forced to beat the Cougars downfield.
"New Mexico will be a bigger team and they will definitely have more plays in their playbook, and they'll also have a lot more threats," said Nixon. "Their receivers are big, fast guys that are probably some of the better receivers we will face this year.
"Once we try and stop the run, I'm pretty sure they're going to try and start throwing the ball. We're going to force Porterie to throw the ball, and he's a pretty good quarterback, so we know he can throw the ball. The biggest thing we have do is first stop the run by playing physical with them, and then force Porterie to throw the ball and do plays they don't want to do."
Despite leading the offense more from within the pocket, the Cougars also know that quarterback Porterie can still do much of the same things he did last season, namely roll out and throw on the run or do naked bootlegs. A key to a Cougar victory will be to contain Porterie within the pocket if the Cougars are able to stop Ferguson on the ground.
"In watching film it seems like [Porterie] wants to stay in the pocket," Nixon said. "However, we're going to prepare for roll outs, screens and everything of that nature. We're expecting him to bring his "A" game by first trying to stay in the pocket, but he also is mobile and likes to do a lot of naked bootlegs and does throw well on the run. So another key is to make sure we can contain that side of his game if and when it occurs. We have to play assignment-sound defense, and if we do we'll be successful."
Senior safety Corby Hodgkiss talked about the keys for success for the Cougar defensive backs.
"I think first and foremost for us to be successful against their receivers is we have to be in the right spots," said Hodgkiss. "The key for us is to first be prepared. We have to watch our film and starting with this past Monday we have to be ready to go throughout the rest of the week to prepare for what they're going to do. Once you understand what they're going to do, then you can put yourself in the right spots. From there it's just a matter if you're going to make a play or not, so first you have to know what to do. Second, you have to make a play."
"We have to take it one play at a time," said Andre Saulsberry. "We have to first know our assignments. From there we have to be in the right position to make a play. If we do that, then we should have no problem beating New Mexico."
With the Lobos having two very good speedy receivers in 6-foot-2-inch, 210-pound Travis Brown (#81) and 6-foot-2-inch, 214-pound Marcus Smith (#4), a key for the Cougar safeties will be to not let the bigger receivers out-physical their way past the BYU cornerbacks for deep passes.
"Our job as a secondary is to not let the ball go over the top of us," said Hodgkiss. "The focus that has been in our position's room is to not allow touchdowns from the big plays. For instance, during the Tulsa game those were all big plays, so that was on us. We came back the following Monday and felt it was a terrible, terrible game for us. So, we're focusing on much of the same things for this game against New Mexico.
"Their receivers…are bigger guys and what we're focusing more on is their speed. We've brought out some coverages that emphasize on covering the deep ball. We're going to play a lot of cover-four this week. We need to make sure we double those posts and deep digs that they do. We should never have a guy covering deep one-on-one, and that's one of our goals."
Establishing a physical presence against the bigger receivers is something that Saulsberry feels the Cougar cornerbacks need to establish.
"Tulsa's [receivers] were a bit smaller, so these guys are bigger guys that can be physical with you. When you play against guys like that you have to first be aggressive with them to let them know that you're not going to let down. Right from the get-go you have to let them know that they're not going to bully you the whole game."
With the Cougars looking for their first road win on the season, a final key for a cougar victory will be preparing the team as if the game against the Lobos was just another home game.
"Obviously, one thing we haven't done this year is win on the road," said Nixon. "We've taken that as a personal challenge upon us for this game - to go out there and win on the road. Any conference game we play is a must-win, and New Mexico is a tough team that's playing good ball right now. We're going to do things this week that will get us prepared to win on the road and to be focused in. We had a longer practice today than usual to help us prepare for the task at hand."
"One thing Coach Mendenhall said was that he wanted us to have the same mentality on the road as we do when we're at home," said Hodgkiss. "Coach Mendenhall brought that up today. He said we're going to do everything possible in our team meetings to help us focus to where when we play an away game, it feels like a home game."