Las Cruces, N.M. - Junior Cody Hoffman grabbed a BYU-record five touchdown receptions and senior James Lark tossed six touchdown passes in first career start to help power BYU over New Mexico State, 50-14, Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium.
Hoffman pulled down 12 catches for a career-best 182 yards to push him to 1,134 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on the season.
Senior quarterback James Lark completed 34 of 50 pass attempts for 384 yards and six touchdowns in his first career start. Lark’s 384 yards are the most by a BYU quarterback in their first career start. He is the 10th BYU signal-caller to toss at least six touchdown passes in a game.
Freshman running back Jamaal Williams led the ground-attack with 62 yards on 19 carries to become the all-time rushing yardage leader for a BYU true freshman with 744 yards this season.
The Cougars (7-5) outgained the Aggies (1-10) 520 yards and held New Mexico State to just 187 yards, including only 29 rushing yards in the 2012 regular season finale.
Senior Brandon Ogletree led the defense with 10 total tackles and three tackles for loss. Junior Kyle Van Noy contributed a career-high three sacks and five total tackles while freshman Bronson Kaufusi added another three tackles for loss and five total tackles.
After neither team was able to reach the end zone in the first quarter, the Aggies struck first just two minutes into the second quarter. New Mexico State started the quarter on BYU’s 21 and drove in on an 8-yard pass to take a 7-0 lead.
Facing 4th-and-goal, Lark hit Hoffman for a five-yard touchdown pass to put points on the board for the Cougars with 7:30 left in the second quarter. Justin Sorensen hit the left upright for his first missed PAT in his career to leave BYU behind 7-6.
The score sparked the Cougars as the defense went to work forcing a three-and-out followed by a 42-yard punt return by JD Falslev to give the ball to BYU at the NMSU 36.
A direct snap to Williams on 4th and 1 resulted in a conversion and pickup of 17 yards. Falslev capped off the drive he started, hauling in a touchdown from four yards out to take advantage of the short field. The score pushed the Cougars ahead 13-7 with 2:44 remaining until the break.
On BYU’s next possession, Lark picked up nine yards on the ground to bring up first and goal with 41 seconds to play. Hoffman pulled down his second score of the half to take a 20-7 lead into halftime.
Sorensen knocked in a 31-yard field goal to kick off the second half and extend the Cougar lead to 23-7 with 11:05 on the clock.
With 9:32 left to play in the third quarter, New Mexico State heaved a 67-yard touchdown pass down field with a juggling catch to close the gap, 23-14.
Riley Stephenson pinned the Aggies on the two-yard line on a 58-yard punt to give the BYU defense an edge. A three-and-out put the Cougar offense back on the field where Hoffman hurdled a defender and went 31 yards for a touchdown to put BYU on top 30-14 with just under four minutes left in the third.
Hoffman hauled in another two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, a six-yard grab and a career-best 64-yard catch-and-run for a score, to move the Cougars in front 43-14 after another missed PAT.
Senior fullback Zed Mendenhall pushed up the middle for another BYU score to wrap up the game 50-14.
The Cougars end the regular season with the win and next prepare for the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego Dec. 20.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall post-practice comments
The following comments are from head coach Bronco Mendenhall's post-practice press briefing.
On if the team is down after the loss at San Jose State:
No. I think they’re more determined and resolved. The time to be down was the plane ride home and yesterday. Now it’s right back to work.
On Riley Nelson’s health:
He’s hurt. Hopefully he’ll be back by the game but he got pounded against San Jose State. He took a lot of shots. He didn’t practice today. Hopefully he’ll be back by Saturday.
Is Riley Nelson’s injury similar to last years?
I’m not sure. I don’t know enough about it. It’s where the rib and cartilage meet. Really painful. I don’t know enough about the injury other than he finished the game, which after watching it, is pretty impressive.
On Cody Hoffman’s health:
He’ll be fine from what I’ve been told.
On having Riley Nelson and Cody Hoffman playing through injuries at the end of the game:
The team respects them. They gave us a great chance to win the game. Cody came in after the long drive and recovered the onside kick. Riley just scrambled all over the place and threw it to David Foote and we got close. We just didn’t protect well enough to win it.
On Brandon Ogletree’s leadership:
There is only one speed to him, that is whatever 10 is, and a little past it. He’s full-go all the time. He’s kind of mad at you most of the time too which is good.
Does Riley Nelson get too much blame for losses?
No question. The guy does everything he possibly can to help our team. Offensive execution is protection, route-running, protection by the running backs, check-down routes, etc. He’s most visible, and he’s handling that really well. One or two plays in a bunch of games, but we’re also in every game right to the very end, and Riley has given us a chance to do that.
What percentage of a chance is there Riley Nelson will play Saturday?
I don’t know enough about it. I’ll probably know more and more as the week goes. For him to be out today is pretty significant, because the guy doesn’t miss many.
When you’re so close to winning a lot of these games, what kind of changes do you make?
Intuitively and as the leader as you keep watching, hopefully as objectively as possible, you know whether they’re minor tweaks or they have to be significant. That’s hard to notice during the year. Bye-week is easy to step back. Sometimes after a couple in a row you might be able to step back but it’s hard to say. The leader has to pick and chose what he sees during the season and do the best he can.
On ESPN report of BYU rejoining the Mountain West Conference:
I don’t know anything about it. I don’t know what to tell you. There’s nothing I’d be shocked by with realignment, etc. I’m just trying to get our team ready to play.
On new playoff system as an Independent:
It’s about the same access we had before, the way I see it. We still have to be undefeated, I think, to be considered.
On Cody Hoffman almost reaching 1,000 receiving yards:
He’s gaining momentum. The last couple of games he’s emerging maybe a little bit beyond where he finished last year. It took him awhile in the midseason but I’ve liked the way he has played the last couple of games.
On New Mexico State:
They’re talented but they turn the ball over a lot. They’ve been struggling to stop the run defensively. Offensively, they have a lot of good athletes but struggle with turnovers and consistency.
On how close the staff was to turning to James Lark at any point this season:
Not really close. Not because of lack of trust. I tried to explain why Taysom Hill was the backup in terms of continuity of the system with Riley. During the last game a couple times it was maybe a breath or two away from putting James in. He’ll play and he’ll start this week at New Mexico State if Riley can’t play for any reason.
On difference of being Independent and not playing for conference championships:
That part isn’t as different, in terms of playing for conference championships, as just preparing for a lot of new and different opponents. There’s not much history. With San Jose State we had film from a year ago as we do for New Mexico State, so that helps a little bit. Some of the teams we’re playing for the first time, that’s been good and kind of refreshing.