Nov. 13, 2009
Saturday: Brigham Young at Lobos, 12 noon
On TV: The Mtn. (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Online: GameTracker, stats, game story on GoLobos.com
Radio: 770-AM KKOB; Lobo Radio Network
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
If your viewpoint toward UNM foes travels beyond a passionate dislike for whoever stands across the line from Lobos, there really is something neat about the Brigham Young Cougars' visit to University Stadium.
The Cougs have an offense that can be fun to watch -- and even more fun to shut down, if you can do it.
What BYU does on offense adds drama and Xs-and-Os strategy to a game in a special, but tense, way. It's kind of what Air Force does with its option attack, or what Texas Tech does with its spread-and-throw. These dynamic attacks put huge pressure on a defense.
The Cougars were one of the first college teams to drastically pull away from the three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust philosophy. The Cougars went three-out-and-dust-the-clouds long ago. Now, they are three-out, four-out, look out!
Their list of heaving heroes is a long one including: Steve Sarkisian, John Walsh, Jim McMahon, Marc Wilson, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, John Beck, Gifford Nielsen, Robbie Bosco.
The present young gun in the BYU huddle is Max Hall. The 6-foot-1 senior is a good one. "As advertised," said Lobo coach Mike Locksley. Hall already has thrown and completed more passes for more yards than all of the aforementioned quarterbacks, except for Detmer and Beck.
Better yet, for the Cougars, the senior has 28 career wins as a starter and should break Detmer's school mark of 29 wins. He could tie it Saturday in University Stadium. Hall has tossed for 10,348 yards and 84 scores as a Cougar. This year he has tossed for 2,543 yards and 21 touchdowns.
He is coming off a 52-0 win over Wyoming where he threw for 4 TDs and 265 first-half yards. Perspective: The Lobos average 216.7 passing yards a game. Hall averages 282 per game. He could be a strong Heisman Trophy candidate in 2009, if his non-BCS status doesn't hurt him.
What the Cougars do on offense can be appreciated in a technical sense, but not come Saturday, not by Lobo fans. On the emotional level, Lobos want the three-out phrase to be referring to BYU's offense returning to the bench after being stopped on first, second, and third down.
That's going to be tough, but that also adds an element to the game. Can the Lobos get to Hall?
One of the best-ever Lobo wins in University Stadium was UNM's 25-21 stunner in 1980 over the McMahon-led Cougars. The cocky Cougar was annihilated by a Lobos' blitz that occasionally sent nine defenders into the BYU line. It was a gamble that paid off.
Locksley's Lobos probably won't roll the dice at that level, but these Lobos need to get to Hall. If they give the big Cougar too much time in the pocket, he'll pick the Lobos apart.
The Lobos come into the game 0-9 with only three more chances to add a win to that side of the UNM ledger.
"I've never been a part of a team like this team where the character and resolve of it, week in and week out, is, `let's go find a way to win.' That hasn't changed," said Locksley.
The UNM offense hinges around the arm and the decision making of senior quarterback Donovan Porterie. He has passed for 1,780 yards, but only eight touchdowns. The Lobos have moved the ball well, at times, but have not converted enough points out of red-zone penetrations.
The Lobos' rushing attack has been sporadic. UNM averages 92.8 yards per game and no Lobo runner averages more than 50 yards per game. The Lobos yield 258.3 yards passing per game and 171.1 yards rushing.
"From a scheme standpoint, we know what our players are able to execute," said Locksley. "There isn't much that I would change. Obviously I would like to change the outcome of the last few games. The staff has done a great job of preparing our guys with a game plan or scheme to be successful."
Part of that scheme vs. BYU, includes the up-front battle and BYU's ability to run the ball. The Cougars average 165 yards running the ball, which isn't bad for a pass-happy team and Harvey Unga is solid with a 97.9-yard average.
The BYU offensive line is massive -- 329, 300, 300, 321, 308, 321, 340, 329, 340 -- and is good at both opening holes for Unga and protecting Hall. The Lobos have five defensive linemen on their two-deep listed at 260 or lower. UNM has three freshmen and two sophomores on that depth chart.
Hall, Unga and the 300-plus Cougars are huge reasons BYU is 7-2 (4-1 MWC) and ranked No. 25. The Lobos are 1-15 vs. Cougar teams that are ranked. UNM's win in 1980 was over No. 19 BYU.
"We have another great opportunity against a great team," said Locksley. "Having watched BYU on film over the last couple of days, they are probably playing their best football. They are peaking and that poses a great challenge for us."
The Cougars' wake-up call was a 38-7 disaster to TCU in Provo two games back. BYU responded with that 52-0 hammering of Wyoming. BYU is likely looking for another big gap on the scoreboard to improve their national status.
The Lobos just want a win.