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No. 8/9 BYU hosts New Mexico

No. 8/9 BYU hosts New Mexico

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By DOUG ALDEN AP Sports Writer

PROVO, Utah (AP) -- BYU quarterback Max Hall says there's no need to panic yet.

The ninth-ranked Cougars were bound to slow down eventually, even if only a little.

BYU (5-0, 1-0 Mountain West) hosts New Mexico on Saturday and the Cougars will be trying to tweak a few mistakes they made last week in a 34-14 win at Utah State.

"I think our offense needed to see that we're going to make a mistake every once in a while. We're going to drop a few balls. I'm going to throw an interception. We're going to miss a block," Hall said. "It was good for us to kind of see that, to learn from it."

The Cougars took a 34-0 lead and had a comfortable margin for the errors, which included 12 penalties and two interceptions thrown by Hall -- doubling his season total.

But with a huge game at TCU looming next week, the Cougars will be looking to polish up against the Lobos (3-3, 1-1).

It wasn't that BYU played poorly at Utah State. The Cougars just didn't play as well as they had in shutouts over Wyoming and UCLA in their previous two games.

"If we make just one little mistake we can't freak out and feel like it's going to cost us the game, because it's not. We just need to go to the next play and keep going," Hall said. "It was good for us. We needed that to happen. It's not going to be perfect."

The Cougars were coming off a bye week and had outscored their last two opponents 103-0, so a slight drop-off wasn't surprising. BYU still won its 15th straight, the longest streak in the nation.

But coach Bronco Mendenhall is expecting improvement Saturday against New Mexico, where he was coach Rocky Long's defensive coordinator from 1998-2002. Mendenhall is 3-0 against Long, although two of the three have been close. Last year New Mexico rallied from a 21-6 deficit to tie it before BYU scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and won 31-24.

"Sometimes they don't start the fastest," Mendenhall said of the Lobos. "Sometimes there's a drop here or there. But at the end it seems like they're winning football games and some that most people don't think they should. I think that comes from their head coach. He's very competitive. He's very tough and he demands a lot."

New Mexico has won two straight despite losing quarterback Donovan Porterie in the fourth game of the season when he tore two ligaments in his knee in the first half of a 56-14 defeat at Tulsa. That was the last time the Lobos lost.

"They always talk about Utah, BYU, TCU in the Mountain West. No one says anything about New Mexico," Lobos fullback Matt Quillen said. "We're physical. We can make plays and we'll see what happens after that."

Freshman Brad Gruner has taken over at quarterback and won both starts, thanks largely to his running backs. Gruner has thrown for just 88 yards in the wins over New Mexico State and Wyoming, but the Lobos have more than compensated by running for 614 yards.

The Lobos will also be getting back Rodney Ferguson, who sat out New Mexico's 24-0 win over Wyoming because of a shoulder injury. Ferguson averages 5 yards a carry and almost 105 yards per game.

Long said the running backs can't do it alone. He said Gruner has looked good in practice, but will need to be better in games, especially on Saturday.

"We have to transfer from what he does in practice to the game field so that we throw it and catch it better," Long said. "But it's not a one-man deal either. I think our receivers need to get open. I think that Brad has to feel comfortable in the pocket where there's not people around him so he can step in and throw the ball."

BYU has won eight of the last 10 meetings and has a 15-game home winning streak. The Cougars' Mountain West streak is at 17 straight wins.

BYU made it through its nonconference schedule without a loss and could be looking at a Bowl Championship Series berth if the Cougars can go 8-0 in the Mountain West for a third straight year.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-10-10-08 1543MDT

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