Game Notes: Cougars Look to Extend MWC Win Streak at New Mexico

The Cougars will travel to New Mexico on Saturday to take on New Mexico. BYU has won seven straight league road games entering the contest. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)

PROVO -- BYU continues Mountain West Conference play when they head to Albuquerque, N.M. to face 3-1 New Mexico. The Cougars are coming off a 25-point win over previously undefeated Air Force, while the Lobos will look to improve on its three-game winning streak. New Mexico is 2-0 at home this season, including a 58-0 drubbing of Sacramento State last Saturday. BYU will be looking for its first road win of the year. Game time is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. (MT) and will be broadcast nationally on CSTV.

THE BYU-NEW MEXICO SERIES

BYU tries for its ninth straight Mountain West Conference victory against New Mexico. The Cougars hold an all-time record of 41-14-1 against the Lobos, including a 21-8 record over New Mexico in Albuquerque. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall is 2-0 against his former team, and the Cougars have not lost in Albuquerque since the 1997 season. The two teams first played each other in 1951 with New Mexico shutting out BYU, 34-0. The Lobos would win eight of the teams' first 14 matchups. However, since 1965, the Cougars have won 36 of 42 contests against New Mexico, including 16 in a row from 1981-96. BYU defeated the Lobos in Provo last season by a score of 42-17. New Mexico finished the 2006 season with an overall record of 6-7 and a trip to the inaugural New Mexico Bowl.

ON THE TUBE

Saturday's game will be broadcast live to a national television audience on CSTV. The game will mark the fourth of six nationally televised games during the 2007 season. Tom Hart will call the action and Trev Alberts will lend analysis. Hart graduated from the University of Missouri after playing a season of football at Quincy (Ill) University. His television play-by-play experience includes national coverage of the Conference USA Football Game of the Week, men's and women's basketball, and baseball for CSTV. Alberts is a former consensus All-American linebacker from the University of Nebraska. A 1993 Dick Butkus Award winner, Alberts was drafted with the fifth overall pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 1994. Alberts went on to play three seasons in the NFL before retiring in 1997. After his retirement from the NFL, Alberts spent five years working for CNN/SI and Sports Illustrated as a college football analyst. From 2002-05, Alberts was a college football analyst for ESPN's College GameDay Scoreboard and College GameDay Final.

FAMILIAR TERRITORY

BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall returns to New Mexico where he served as the team's defensive coordinator from 1998-2002 and as the assistant head coach in 2002. As head coach of the Cougars, Mendenhall is 2-0 all-time against his former team.

FAMILY TIES

New Mexico head coach Rocky Long was born in Provo while his father, Rod, was playing for BYU.

OREGON STATESMEN

Bronco Mendenhall, Rocky Long and New Mexico defensive coordinator Osia Lewis all have a history together at Oregon State. In 1995 Long was the Beavers' defensive coordinator while Lewis coached the outside linebackers and special teams and Mendenhall coached the defensive line.

INCIDENTALLY

Osia Lewis was also the man who replaced Bronco Mendenhall as the Lobos' defensive coordinator. In addition, Lewis was Mendenhall's host on his recruiting trip to Oregon State.

A LOOK BACK: BYU 31-AIR FORCE 6

Max Hall threw for 293 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-6 victory over Air Force to give the Cougars their eighth straight home victory. The game also marked the first loss of the 2007 season for the Falcons. BYU running back Manase Tonga recorded two rushing touchdowns on the afternoon bringing his season total up to four, which is the same amount of rushing touchdowns he had all of last year. The Cougars were led defensively by linebacker Kelly Poppinga who had 10 tackles. Defensive lineman Jan Jorgensen was credited with nine tackles, including a sack and two hurries against the Falcons. The BYU defense held Air Force to just 231 yards of total offense, marking the third time in four games the Cougars have held their opponents to under 240 yards of total offense. Tight end Dennis Pitta picked up his second straight game with over 100 yards receiving, marking the first time a BYU receiver had back-to-back 100-yard games since Jonny Harline had consecutive 100-yard games to end the 2006 season. With the win, the Cougars improved to 2-2 on the season, including a 2-0 mark at home. The game marked BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall's third straight victory over the Falcons.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Cougars' game at Tulsa marked the fourth time during the Bronco Mendenhall era the Cougars have had back-to-back road games during the regular season. In 2005, BYU played at San Diego State and at New Mexico in back-to-back weeks and at UNLV and Wyoming. Last season, the Cougars played at Air Force, followed by a game at Colorado State the following week. The Cougars are 3-1 in the second of two-straight road games. This week's game at New Mexico marks the second of two straight road games for the Cougars this season. Following this week's game in Albuquerque, the Cougars will have a week off before traveling to Las Vegas to face UNLV. Overall, the Cougars will have started the season with four of six games on the road.

OFF TO A QUICK START

For the first time since the 2004 season when BYU edged Notre Dame, 20-17, at LaVell Edwards Stadium, the Cougars won its season-opener, 20-7, against Arizona. The Cougars lost at home to Boston College to start the 2005 campaign before dropping a 16-13 decision to Arizona on a last-second field goal to start the 2006 season. BYU won four straight season-openers from 2001-2004. Overall, the Cougars have won five of their last six home-openers. Bronco Mendenhall is 1-2 in season-opening games, including a mark of 1-1 in Provo.

SECOND STRAIGHT SELLOUT

The Air Force game marked the second consecutive sell-out at Edwards Stadium and the first time since November 20, 1999 the Cougars have had a sell-out in back-to-back games during the same season. A capacity crowd of 64,525 attended the Cougars' season-opening victory over Arizona on September 1. Since 1999, the Cougars are 9-4 in games with a sell-out crowd. Speaking of sell-out crowds ... this week's game at University Stadium in Albuquerque is expected to be sold out.

RUSHING DOMINANCE

Entering Saturday's game at New Mexico, the Cougars own a record of 92-18 when rushing for 100 (or more) yards since the 1991 season. The Tulsa game marked only the fifth time since 1991 that the Cougars had gained over 150 yards rushing in a game and lost. (BYU is 73-5 since 1991 when rushing for 150 or more yards.) During the Bronco Mendenhall era, the Cougars are 16-3 when rushing for 100 or more yards.

HOMELAND SECURITY

Last Saturday's victory over Air Force runs the Cougars' consecutive home winning streak to eight games, dating back to the 2006 season. Over that span, the Cougars have defeated their opponents by an average of 31.2 points per game. During that stretch, BYU is allowing just 10.6 points per game. The Cougars have allowed seven points or less in five of the last eight home games. In the first two games this season, the Cougars have outscored opponents by an average 19.0 points per game and have allowed just 6.5 points per game. The Cougars' current win streak is the longest since posting a 10-game home win streak from October 26, 2000 to September 6, 2002.

TEAM CAPTAINS

Seniors Bryan Kehl, Kelly Poppinga, Matt Allen and Sete Aulai have been selected by their teammates to serve as captains for the 2007 football season. Kehl and Poppinga are top linebackers for the Cougars, while Allen is a veteran wide receiver and Aulai is the team's starting center.

Collectively, the group has racked up 91 games of experience, including Kehl who has played in 35 career games and Allen who has played in 31. Aulai started and played in 12 games during the 2006 season, while Poppinga saw action in all 13 games for the Cougars last season.

Aulai is a 2006 Mountain West Conference second-team performer and has been tapped as an honors candidate for the 2007 season. Aulai allowed just one sack as a junior and did not allow a single sack against MWC opponents last season. Allen is an Academic All-Mountain West Conference performer who graduated with a degree in exercise science earlier this month. Allen racked up 420 yards receiving, averaging 32 yards per game. Kehl is also an Academic All-Mountain West Conference performer. He ranked third on the BYU roster last season with 70 tackles, including eight tackles for a combined loss of 33 yards. Poppinga, also an Academic All-Mountain West Conference performer and recent BYU graduate, totaled 36 tackles during his junior season, posting two sacks and two interceptions.

HALL IN A DAY'S WORK

Sophomore quarterback Max Hall totaled 293 yards passing on 23-of-33 attempts in the Cougars' 31-6 victory over Air Force. He was credited with two touchdown completions, including a 9-yard pass to Matt Allen in the second quarter and a 29-yard touch pass to Harvey Unga in the third quarter. On the season, Hall has completed over 62 percent of his attempts (113-181) and is averaging 377.3 yards per game. Hall is on pace to pass for over 4,500 yards on the season and rank among the top-five single-season performances in BYU football history. Hall had two touchdown completions against Air Force, adding to his season total of 10.

QUARTERLY REPORT

BYU's first-quarter shutout against Air Force marked the first time since the third quarter against UCLA that the Cougar defense has held its opponent scoreless for an entire quarter. All totaled, the Cougars have held opponents scoreless in seven of 16 quarters this season. The Cougars held the Falcons scoreless in the first two quarters of the game, marking the second time in four games BYU has shut out its opponent in the first half. The Cougars then held Air Force scoreless in the fourth quarter, marking the seventh out of 16 total quarters that the BYU defense has held its opponent scoreless this season.

FIRST BLOOD

For the 15th time in its last 16 games, BYU has been the first to score in a game. The Cougars have posted a record of 13-2 in those games that they scored first.

TAKING THE LEAD

After quarterback Max Hall found senior wide receiver Matt Allen in the end zone in the second quarter against Air Force, the Cougars held a 14-0 advantage over the Falcons. The score marked the biggest lead BYU has had since posting a 20-0 advantage over Arizona in the fourth quarter of the season-opener. A 29-yard touchdown pass from Hall to Harvey Unga gave the Cougars a 24-0 lead at the 10:54 mark of the third quarter, marking the largest lead BYU has held at any point this season.

FIRST-HALF DOMINANCE

Dating back to the 2006 season, the Cougars have led at halftime in 16 of the last 17 games, including three out of four games this season. During those 16 games, BYU is 13-3.

THE 100-YARD CLUB

Sophomore Dennis Pitta's 114 yards receiving against Air Force marked the second consecutive game BYU has had a 100-yard receiver (Pitta, Michael Reed and Austin Collie all caught for 100+ yards against Tulsa). Also, Harvey Unga's 111 yards on 22 carries marks the second consecutive game the freshman running back has rushed for at least 100 yards. The game marks the second straight contest the Cougars have had a 100-yard receiver and a 100-yard rusher.

SEEING PITTA FROM THE POCKET

Sophomore tight end Dennis Pitta caught five passes for 114 yards Saturday against Air Force and racked up 113 receiving yards last week against Tulsa. The last BYU player to have two consecutive games with 100+ yards receiving was Jonny Harline in 2006. Harline totaled 118 yards against Utah and racked up 181 receiving yards the following game against Oregon in the 2006 Las Vegas Bowl.

So far this season, Max Hall and Dennis Pitta have teamed up on 20 balls for a team-leading 326 yards. Pitta is averaging over 81 yards receiving per game. With both Pitta and Hall being only sophomores, they are on pace to become BYU's all-time leading quarterback-receiver duo. Currently, Ty Detmer and tight end Chris Smith own that distinction with 2,221 yards between 1988 and 1990.

BALANCED ATTACK

The Cougars have scored 16 touchdowns on the season. Of the 16 TD's, 10 have been scored via the passing game while six have been scored on the ground. Running back Manase Tonga leads the team with four rushing touchdowns while sophomore receiver Austin Collie has a team-leading three touchdown receptions. Running back Harvey Unga has a team-leading four total touchdowns, including two rushing TD's and two touchdown completions.

BLOCK PARTY

Senior cornerback Ben Criddle's blocked field goal attempt in the second quarter of the Cougars' 31-6 victory over Air Force marked the Cougars' first blocked field goal attempt since Russell Tialavea blocked a Utah State field goal attempt during the 2006 season. (The Cougars went on to shut out Utah State, 38-0. Interestingly, following Criddle's blocked field goal attempt, the Cougars held the Falcons scoreless in three of four quarters.)

NEAR SHUTOUTS

In two of the Cougars' four games this season, BYU has held its opponents scoreless in three of four quarters. The Cougars held Arizona scoreless through 59 minutes. The Wildcats scored with just under a minute remaining in the game. Against Air Force, the BYU defense pitched a shutout through the better part of three quarters. The Falcons scored with 3:31 left in the third quarter, but would not score again. Interestingly, Air Force is the only team in the Mountain West Conference the Cougars have never shut out for an entire game. Shaun Carney's eight-yard touchdown run in the third quarter ended the Cougars' chances of doing so last Saturday. BYU has had 11 shutouts since the 1984 season. Interestingly, three of those shutouts were against New Mexico. (1984, 1988, 1992). The Cougars have only been shut out twice in the past 401 games.

MWC ROAD WARRIORS

Dating back to the 2005 season, the Cougars have won seven straight Mountain West Conference road games. The streak marks the most consecutive road wins in league play since the Cougars won eight straight from September 30, 1995 through September 27, 1997. The current streak started with a 27-24 win at New Mexico during the 2005 season.

FOOL ME ONCE ...

In the Bronco Mendenhall era, BYU is 6-2 in games following a loss during the regular season. Before the Tulsa loss (following the UCLA loss), the Cougars' only loss following a loss came on October 1, 2005 when BYU dropped a 31-10 decision at San Diego State following a 51-50 overtime loss against TCU. The Cougars improved to 6-2 during the Mendenhall era with a 31-6 victory over Air Force, which was following the Tulsa loss.

DOUBLE JEOPARDY

The Cougars' game at Tulsa marked the fourth time during the Bronco Mendenhall era that the Cougars have played back-to-back road games. Prior to the loss at Tulsa, BYU was a perfect 3-0 on the back end of two straight road games. The New Mexico game will be the first of two straight road games; however, the Cougars will have a week off before traveling to UNLV.

DON'T LOOK BACK

In the Bronco Mendenhall era, BYU is 18-4 when leading at halftime and 17-1 when taking a lead into the fourth quarter. The loss at Tulsa marked the first time since September 16, 2006 the Cougars lost a game after holding a halftime lead. BYU led 34-31 at halftime against the Golden Hurricane; however, TU outscored the Cougars 24-13 in the second half to win the game, 55-47. Against Air Force, the Cougars held a 17-0 lead and added 14 more points in the second half to defeat the Falcons 31-6.

IT'S BEEN A WHILE

The Cougars currently have the 8th longest streak in the nation of consecutive games without returning a kickoff for a touchdown. BYU has been unable to accomplish the feat in 107 straight games. Mike Rigell is the last Cougar to return a kickoff for a touchdown. Rigell turned in a 96-yard touchdown in a 31-9 victory at Hawaii on October 17, 1998.

YELLOW FEVER

Throughout the first four games of the season, the Cougars have been plagued with penalties. In the season-opener against Arizona, BYU had a season-low 7 penalties for only 56 yards. In Week 2, the Cougars were flagged 11 times for 84 yards. At Tulsa, BYU gave up a season-high 138 yards on 14 penalties. Things improved slightly for the Cougars against Air Force, giving up 65 yards on 8 penalties. The Cougars rank 109th nationally with 38 penalties for 314 yards. BYU opponents have just 17 penalties for 134 yards.

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