Stevens: BYU's Path Back To Albuquerque Might Lie Through Lobos
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/19/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 19, 2010

Lobo Football -- At Brigham Young -- Provo, Utah
4:06 (MT), Saturday, LaVell Edwards Stadium
On The Air: The Mtn., Comcast 276, DirecTV 616; KKOB 770-AM / Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, Recap, Stats

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

There is irony in the New Mexico Lobos' trip to Provo, Utah to try to add victory No. 2 of the 2010 season and do so against a traditional foe that so often brings out the best and the worst in the Lobos.

Lobo fans love to hate the Brigham Young Cougars, who are bolting from the Mountain West after this season. But maybe the only chance those fans will get to ever see Cougars in University Stadium again is for the Lobos to fall to BYU on Saturday. If so, the Cougars would become bowl eligible and surely be a prime candidate for the New Mexico bowl.

But there is more irony in UNM's Mountain West battle with Cougars. BYU has long been a league power and a thorn in New Mexico's side because of all the golden arms, who have stood in the pocket and destroyed a Lobo secondary.

Come Saturday, the Cougars likely will be trying to run and ram the football down the Lobos' throats.

"I can understand why they are going that way having lived the life of playing a freshman quarterback," said Lobo coach Mike Locksley. "A running attack is a freshman quarterback's best friend."

If so, Lobo quarterback Stump Godfrey doesn't have a best friend in the Lobo backfield. UNM is next to last in the MWC in rushing offense, averaging 110 yards per game. BYU, the traditional pass-happy Cougars, are throwing out 164.3 yards per game.

The BYU running attack is one key that turned around a Cougar offense that averaged 15.2 points in the first five games and is averaging 31.2 points over the past five games. BYU went 1-4 and turned that around to go 4-1 to form the Cougars' 5-5 record.

The change from pussycats back into Cougars also is coming from the other side of the ball, too. BYU allowed 28.8 points per game in the first five games and have yielded 17.8 points over the past five games.

BYU's last game was an impressive one. The Cougars held Colorado State to 83 yards rushing. That up-front effort marked the third consecutive time BYU has held an opponent to under 100 yards on the ground. The Cougs did it to UNLV and Wyoming, too. Yes, that's the Wyoming team that mauled UNM's defensive front for 392 yards on the ground.

BYU pounded CSU -- at CSU -- 49-10, pitching a shutout until the Rams scored 10 points in the final quarter against the BYU scrubs. BYU ran for 284 yards at CSU, ran for 216 against UNLV and ran for 217 against Wyoming.

For sure, the Cougars are taking pressure off freshman hurler Jake Heaps, but that doesn't mean the Cougar cub can't throw the ball. He went 15-of-20 for 242 yards at CSU with no picks. He threw four touchdowns to tie a MWC record for a single game. He completes 55 percent of his passes (154-of-280) and averages 159.3 yards per game.

And here's a scary stat the Cougars threw out at CSU. They went 12-of-13 on third-down conversions -- which probably means there were a lot of third-and-short situations in Fort Collins. The one time BYU missed on third down, they got it on fourth down. BYU never punted.

The Cougars also are learning that life on the football field is a lot easier, if you put the pedal to the metal early. BYU rolled out a 38-0 halftime lead vs. UNLV and a 35-0 lead at CSU.

On the defensive side, the most yards yielded on the ground in the past five games in the first quarter were 20 by TCU. In the other four, the rushing stats were eight, zero, minus 10 and minus 30. UNLV ended the game with 22 rushing yards.

What this means for the Lobos is they likely are running into a hot and rejuvenating BYU team that is looking at Lobos at the ticket to postseason play. BYU finishes the season next Saturday at Utah. It might be prudent to get win No. 6 against a Lobo team that is 1-9 and 1-5 in MWC games.

The Cougars haven't been as snakebite as the Lobos when it comes in injuries, but they have been bitten. BYU has used 23 different Cougars in starting position, who never before had a start. That's 13 on a banged up defensive unit. BYU also has played 17 first-year Cougars this season.

You don't want to throw too much pressure on Godfrey, but he is the quarterback and that's the position that needs to shine in Locksley's no-huddle, multi-pronged attack. Godfrey was very good in UNM's 34-31 win over Wyoming with 211 yards passing and 69 yards running.

He was OK in UNM's 48-23 loss at Air Force. He probably needs to be better than OK, up in Provo. The Cougars now seem to have an offense. They seem to have a defense.

And -- more irony -- they probably would love to come back and play in University Stadium in December.