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PROVO — Unfortunately for me, this is the last regular season game for BYU. Every year this happens. The end of the season gets here way before I am ready for it to end.
I know that there is still a bowl game, but that is like a one-game season. I always have trouble facing the last scheduled game of the year. I love college football and I love the Cougars. Why does it have to end? The Cougs face New Mexico State at Los Cruces this week so I get to put a pin in the map for places I have never been before and so does the football team. This is the first visit to the Aggies home field and Greg Wrubell told me this is the only Division I school left in the west that BYU has not visited. It will probably be memorable.
Here's the scoop on New Mexico State.
The Aggies were a successful football program in 1959 and 1960 when they went to the Sun Bowl both years and won. They were conference champs in 1976 and 1978. Since that time, the Aggies have had some terrible football fortunes. They were picked as the ninth worst football team of all time by ESPN in 1990. However, in 1999, the Aggies beat No. 22 ranked Arizona State in Tempe, recording their biggest victory in that 51-year span. It goes to show you, anyone can beat anyone on any given game day.
New Mexico State throws the ball better than they run it. They have an excellent receiver who has caught 66 passes for an average of 113.5 yards a game. He has scored nine of the 25 touchdowns scored this year by NMS. The offense turns the ball over too often compared to getting turnovers. We know too well, that is a bad combination. NMS has lost the ball 23 times to just nine takeaways.
These two points lead me to my first two objectives.
When a team has one dominate player, you can game plan to reduce his success. BYU will need to pay attention to where #4 Austin Franklin lines up and work to keep him from making big plays. He averages over 17 yards a catch, so every catch is a first down. Even though NMS has little chance of winning this game, BYU should work to limit Franklins catches because he is the threat. It is good preparation for the bowl game.
Along with covering that receiver, BYU needs to make the QB hurry throws and sack him. The Aggies have given up 31 sacks this year. Pressure will limit the success of what NMS does the best. BYU Should be able to limit NMS's run attack, so taking away the pass game will help assure victory.
When playing a team that is a big underdog, turnovers become a big equalizer. Ball security again becomes extremely important this week. It was a major undoing last week, and I believe for this Cougar team, has been the difference between a great record and just a winning record. Turnovers doom success. They take away your chance of scoring and often set up the opponent with a good opportunity to score because of their gain.
Four times this year, BYU opponents have scored on turnovers by BYU. That must be a prime concern against New Mexico State this week. New Mexico State will be challenged to score points this week, BYU can't help them by giving up the football. Although New Mexico State has played four solid games this year, scoring points is a challenge for them.
BYU needs to play with heart and effort this week. It is the last chance to play football for about three weeks. They need to be pumped up and ready to go at the opening kickoff. They need to play like their girlfriend is watching and she cares how good they are. Practice is preparation for the game. Game day is just that, the day you prepared for all week in practice. It is the day to perform. Game day is special and you have to treat it differently than just another day on the field.
I understand that playing opponents with a lackluster record can lead to less motivation to perform, but I don't agree with it. I watch football games to see good execution with a few great catches or runs in the game, big hits within the rules of the game, and the fun part is watching the strategies employed by both teams. The strategy is the interesting part to see how a team works to score while the other team works to stop them.
I love it, and that is why players need to put their heart and effort into every play. It ends so soon every year, and then for many it ends forever. PLAY THE GAME while you can.
- NMS had their only undefeated season in 1960 finishing 11-0.
- Quarterback Charlie Johnson led that team and later played in the NFL for 15 years.
- NMS has been 51 years without going to a bowl game. That's the longest time for any Division I school.
- NMS has struggled for wins. In 1990, they beat Cal State Fullerton to snap a 27-game losing streak, at the time the longest losing streak in the nation.