BYU vs. New Mexico: The Breakdown

The Cougars face off against the New Mexico Lobos this Saturday in BYU's first Mountain West Conference road matchup of the year. The G-man takes us through every position, breaking down the matchups. The Lobos should present a stern test for the Cougars.


New Mexico: The Lobos will start quarterback Donovan Porterie (6-3, 205 So.). Porterie is 6-1 in games he starts and finishes, and he's having a very productive year so far in 2007. Porterie has completed just under 70 percent of his passes so far this year for 1,098 yards, six touchdowns and an interception through four games.

Porterie moves very well in and out of the pocket and is one of the more promising quarterbacks in the conference as a sophomore. He is a threat to run the football, but uses his mobility mostly to buy time in completing passes down the field. Porterie had a good game against a very good Arizona defense, completing 29-of-41 passes for 327 yards and three touchdowns.

BYU: Hall has seen similar production to that of Porterie through the first four games this year, completing 62 percent of his passes for 1,508 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has proven to be very tough and fearless in the pocket, leading to surprising production from a first-year starting quarterback.

Conclusion: Hard to give a definite edge to either player considering their numbers are very similar through the first four games this year. Hall has arguably gone against tougher defenses. Against the only common opponent between the two teams, Hall had similar yardage, throwing for just under 300 yards, no interceptions and two touchdowns.

Edge: Push

Running Backs

New Mexico: The Lobos are led by Rodney Ferguson (6-0, 229 Jr.), who has seen very good production over his first four games. Ferguson has rushed for 490 yards and six touchdowns, and has averaged 4.6 yards per carry. He has also caught five passes for 50 yards this season.

Ferguson will share RB responsibilities with Paul Baker (5-7, 195 Jr.), who has rushed for 130 yards on 37 carries. The Lobos are potent in the backfield and BYU will have to account for Ferguson on every play.

BYU: The Cougars will be led by Harvey Unga, who has rushed for 313 yards and two touchdowns, and has averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Unga has been very productive catching the football, tallying 18 receptions for 254 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Manase Tonga has caught 15 passes of his own for 141 yards, and has rushed for 84 yards and four touchdowns.

Conclusion: While the Lobos have outgained the Cougar running backs on the ground a bit, the Cougar RBs have seen much more production catching the ball.

Edge: BYU

Wide Receivers

New Mexico: This is perhaps the Lobo's strongest position, as they field two experienced and very athletic wideouts in Travis Brown (6-3, 205 Sr.) and Marcus Smith (6-2, 214 Sr.). Both are at the forefront of New Mexico's offensive production and will have to be accounted for very closely by the Cougar secondary.

Through the first four games, Smith has 35 receptions for 438 yards and a touchdown, while Brown has 28 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Both are big, athletic and fast. Look for New Mexico to try and go down the field frequently with their two standout wideouts.

BYU: BYU's WRs have been very productive, yet not close to the production of their counterparts this week. With Austin Collie still somewhat questionable for this week's game, the Cougar wideouts' prospects go down slightly.

Conclusion: New Mexico's offense obviously focuses more around their wideouts, while BYU spreads the ball around more to their backs and tight ends subsequently, limiting their wide receiver's overall production. Regardless, Smith and Brown will likely constitute the toughest test this season for BYU's defense.

Edge: New Mexico

Tight Ends

New Mexico: The Lobos don't go to their tight ends much, as the Lobo offense is very much focused on getting the ball to their two outstanding wide receivers. Chris Mark (6-5, 257 Jr.) has six catches on the season, but only two in New Mexico's last three games.

BYU: Dennis Pitta is starting to come into is own as Hall is looking for him often. Look for Vic So'oto and Andrew George to both be bigger factors this week as well.

Conclusion: The edge easily goes to BYU, as it will with most matchups at the tight end position for the rest of the year.

Edge: BYU

Offensive Line

New Mexico: The Lobos start an offensive front that features four seniors and a junior. Collectively, they average 311 pounds. They're experienced and productive and have only allowed six sacks so far this season.

BYU: The Cougar offensive front has seen some hard times so far this year, but are coming off a very impressive outing against Air Force a week ago. It's a very talented front that is dominant when they cut out their stupid unforced errors that have plagued them this season.

Conclusion: Both are similar in size and in offensive production so far this year. Again, it's this observer's opinion that BYU's OL has faced much stiffer competition thus far this season, giving them an edge considering the better offensive output they've been able to front.

Edge: BYU

Defensive Line

New Mexico: The Lobos feature a three-man front in their 3-3-5 system. On paper they're undersized, with one defensive end weighing in at only 226 pounds, while the end opposite him weighs 250 pounds. Throw in a nose guard that weighs just 279 pounds, and the thought would be that they're potentially weak against the run.

So far that hasn't proven to be the case, as teams are averaging just over 80 yards per game against their defensive front. It's a classic Lobo defensive line in that they're not big, but quick to their gap assignments and stingy against the run.

BYU: After an outstanding outing against Air Force, the Cougar defensive front is flying high. Look for Brett Denney to continue to split reps with Ian Dulan as he did last week, proving effective when given the increased reps.

Conclusion: The Cougars have given up a little more on the ground than the Lobos, but have done so facing teams like UCLA and Air Force, both of which present very good ground attacks.

Edge: BYU


New Mexico: The Lobos start two seniors and a junior at linebacker. They're led by middle linebacker Cody Kase (6-1, 216 Sr.), who is a co-captain on the team for the second year in a row. The Lobo linebackers deserve at least as much credit for the team's success against the run as the defensive line has received.

BYU: Kelly Poppinga and David Nixon are both coming off great outings against Air Force. Meanwhile, Bryan Kehl is going about every week proving that he is the best linebacker in the conference with his dominating play. The return of Shawn Doman should boost their overall production.

Conclusion: While the Lobo linebackers are good, I'll be hard-pressed not to give a significant edge to the Cougar LBs for the rest of the season.

Edge: BYU


New Mexico: The Lobos of course feature a Lobo-back, which is the central player of their defense and consistently their most active tackler. This year the Lobo-back is sophomore Chris McPeek (6-0, 210), who leads the team with 23 tackles.

The Lobo pass defense does look exploitable on paper, and they'll face their stiffest test against BYU this Saturday, as no team has held the Cougar passing attack in check so far this season. DeAndre Wright (5-11, 193 Jr.) was a preseason All-Conference pick and is the Lobo's best pass defender at cornerback, while freshman Jerome Jenkins (5-10, 186) will have his work cut out for him on the other side.

BYU: We'll find out soon enough if the Tulsa game was indeed a hiccup or a warning of what may come to pass if BYU is to run into a similar offense as the Golden Hurricane's. New Mexico presents that type of offense with fast, athletic receivers to go along with an accurate quarterback.

Conclusion: The Cougar secondary has been consistent outside of their one hiccup against Tulsa. We'll see this Saturday if New Mexico can exploit them like Tulsa did, or if the Cougar defensive backfield can remain consistent and dominant as they have done in most games since the switch to the 3-4 system. Meanwhile, it should be a forgone conclusion that BYU's passing attack should have their way with the Lobo secondary.

Edge: BYU

Five Things

1. Keeping Brown and Smith in front of the coverage

This may be the key to the entire game. The Lobo wideouts are very good and will present a consistent test for the Cougar secondary, as the Lobos will look to exploit the coverages downfield much like Tulsa did two weeks ago.

2. Picking up the blitz

Hall and the Cougar pass protectors won't see the array of blitzes the Lobos will throw at them again this season. New Mexico will attack often and from every conceivable area on the field. If they can pick up the blitz consistently, then BYU's offense should romp over an exploitable New Mexico defense.

3. Stopping the Run

Ferguson is a very good running back who can make yards when given the ball. Any defense must stop any run attack if they hope to keep any offense in check. By nullifying Ferguson's effectiveness, they'll cut down on play-action opportunities by the Lobo offense, which will be key.

4. Remain Focused

Mental mistakes have been legion in both road games so far this year. New Mexico poses a hostile crowd that will try and disrupt the offensive execution. If the Cougar offense, and most notably the offensive line, can limit the mental errors and stupid penalties, then the Cougars should win as they should prove dominant on both sides of the ball.

5. Get on Top Early

With inclement weather in the forecast and having to play in the aforementioned hostile environment, it will be important for BYU to take an early lead and hopefully coast towards victory. As alluded to, any observer should love BYU's offensive matchup against a relatively weak Lobo defense. Getting some early scores and cutting out stupid mistakes should lead to a comfortable victory.

Final Score: BYU 38, New Mexico 28

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