Bye Week Comes At The Right Time

Following a tough game against New Mexico, the Cougars are looking forward to using the bye week to accomplish a few physical things. Monday's practice was focused and short, but just what the doctored ordered.

BYU edged out New Mexico 31-24 in Albuquerque as Max Hall threw for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and linebacker Bryan Kehl returned an interception 36 yards for a touchdown of his own. The Cougars got their second conference win on the season, and their eighth straight MWC road victory. The Cougar have now won 13 of the last 14 games at New Mexico.

"This game was huge for us," said Manase Tonga. "Coming off two road losses and winning this game on the road against a conference team in a very hostile environment is big for us. It's always tough playing in New Mexico, and this was a similar game to the last time we played down in New Mexico. Having won down there on the road is huge for us."

The Cougars gained 21 first downs to the Lobos' 16, won the battle of the penalties (BYU was flagged seven times for 56 yards, whereas the Lobos were flagged eight times for 60 yards), and also led in time of possession. However, the offense isn't exactly resting upon their laurels.

"We're doing okay," said Harvey Unga. "But, there is a ton of room for improvement. We're learning more and more as the season goes on [about] the areas we need to continue improving on."

After having played New Mexico, Unga was very complimentary of the Lobos.

"New Mexico is a tough team," Unga said. "I believe they're a very underrated football team. In my opinion, those guys are good players. Their defense is physical and they are well coached. At times I felt like they knew exactly what we were doing. I would get the ball and there would be two guys right there in my face.

"I started believing those guys knew what they were doing. I'm just glad that we didn't go in there and underestimate them. Having played New Mexico and comparing them to the other teams we've played, I would say New Mexico was just as tough. They're a team that just doesn't quit."

"From an offensive standpoint, they were the most aggressive team we've played all year," said receiver Matt Allen. "They put a lot of pressure on us. All the way around they were a very solid team."

Like Unga, Allen was very complimentary of the Lobos.

"They weren't overrated to us," said Allen. "I think we may have thought we would go in and handle them kind of like how we did against Air Force. However, that definitely wasn't the case because they're a much better team. I think they'll end up being one of the top teams in our conference. If they continue to play the way they did against us, I don't see them losing too many games. They gave us fits and we think we're pretty good."

The Cougars still could see some of Coach Mendenhall's lingering influences and characteristics in the Lobo defense.

"You could definitely see the old Mendenhall mentality still on their defense," Unga said. "Definitely, you could see how they were flying to ball and how they never gave up regardless of what was happening. It was obvious that you could see what Coach Mendenhall brought to that defense and that program. It was never just one guy making a solo tackle. One guy would hit and wrap up and then there would be five other guys right on top of you after that. They had a very tough defense."

"I think you can definitely still see Mendenhall in their defense on just about every play," said Allen. "I think you saw that in almost every tackle. You would have five, six or seven guys in on every play, especially on a run play. They were flying really hard off the edge and that made it tough for us, and we had to make some adjustments."

The Lobo 3-3-5 defense gave the high-powered Cougar offense fits all game. The Cougars have already faced the 3-3-5 defense when they played Tulsa. In that game, Max Hall completed 34 passes for 526 yards and four touchdowns. BYU amassed 694 total yards against Tulsa, but only managed 393 total offensive yards against the Lobos. So what was the difference?

"Tulsa wasn't as aggressive as [the Lobos] were," said Allen. "These guys wanted to win a little bit more defensively, I think. It's just kind of their mentality. That's the difference. From a receiver's standpoint, when I'm blocking their cornerbacks on a run play, these guys weren't giving up until the whistle blew. If we would give up, they would be attacking the ball still. They were just very aggressive and were more so than Tulsa."

The Cougars are now 2-0 in conference, with UNLV up next on the schedule. They will have a bye week this week and will use it to their advantage.

"You have the healing time that the bye week allows you to have, and we a couple of guys banged up," said Unga. "I'm a little dinged up but I could go on Saturday if that were the case, but it's always nice to have that little extra rest."

"The biggest thing for us is this allows us to get healed up," said Tonga. "Later on in the week we'll probably start game planning for some stuff against UNLV, but right now we're going light so we can kind of get healed up a bit. I just think everyone wants to just get healthy, so we're looking to take advantage of this. It's really come a great time for us, so we're going to capitalize on it."

"It's also mentally kind of nice," Unga continued. "When you have a little break like this it kind of rejuvenates you more, which allows you to pay more attention, stay focused and have fewer metal errors when the next week comes along. You have a little breathing room to rest a bit and prepare yourself mentally and physically, so this bye week will help us out in those areas leading up to the UNLV game."

After going through a tough early season schedule and having a bye week, the team should be more rested and focused for UNLV, a team that shut out the University of Utah.

"UNLV did some damage against the Utes the week before, so we feel they're going to be ready to play when we face them," said Unga. "That score [27-0] alone says something, so obviously they're going to come out with nothing to lose and it's going to be a good game. It shows you that they're not letting down by how they played against Utah, so this bye week is a nice time for us to prepare and to get a bit of a head start on these guys by not taking anything for granted while getting ourselves healed up."

One Cougar looking forward to taking advantage of the bye week is wide receiver Austin Collie, who has been suffering from a nagging leg injury.

"I really feel the bye week is crucial," said Collie. "It will allow me to get my body healthy and my ankle healthy so I can be 100 percent going into the UNLV game. The bye week has come at a really nice time for us, a really nice time. It allows us to get into the training room and to get ourselves healthy."

Despite being hampered during the New Mexico game, Collie was able to catch four passes for 98 yards and a touchdown before suffering another injury.

"I kind of re-injured the ankle a little," Collie said. "Then I kind of got the wind knocked out of me towards the end there. I'm fine though and it was just one of those things."

BYU fans will be happy to know that running back Fui Vakapuna was out on the practice field running numerous sprints up and down field. Tonga feels Vakapuna could be another Cougar that will benefit from the bye week and could possibly be ready to play in time for the UNLV game.

"He's just trying to get back," said Tonga. "They got him on the bone stimulator, and hopefully with this bye week he can heal up, and we're thinking he'll probably be back after next week."

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