PROVO — During the first week of October, when BYU was sporting an abysmal 1-4 record, a bowl game seemed almost out of the realm of possibility.
But now, after winning four of their last five games, the Cougars (5-5) are just one game away from clinching bowl eligibility. A victory Saturday over New Mexico (1-9) would catapult BYU into the postseason for the sixth consecutive year.
The Cougars say they didn't doubt what they could accomplish this season.
"Even as we started off slow, we never thought that we weren't going to go (to a bowl)," said wide receiver Cody Hoffman. "We just knew things would turn around and go our way. They did. We're just going to keep playing and we're hungry for a bowl game."
Coach Bronco Mendenhall says another bowl bid would reflect the "consistency" of the program. "(Playing in a bowl game) is one of the things that's expected at BYU. I'd love to continue to play football as long as I can this year with this team and help them reach their goals. That's one of the things I'd like to see happen."
RICHARDSON OUT: Starting nose guard Jordan Richardson will be sidelined for the rest of the season after suffering a torn ACL in his knee at Colorado State.
Richardson, a sophomore, had replaced Romney Fuga, who sustained a season-ending knee injury against Nevada in September.
Now, sophomore Eathyn Manumaleuna becomes the starter at nose guard, a position he started in every game in 2007 as a true freshman.
Richardson's injury occurred on a pass rush, Mendenhall said, indicating that it was a non-contact injury. Richardson's foot got stuck in the FieldTurf at Hughes Stadium and the "knee bent sideways," Mendenhall said.
"(The injury) will affect our depth," the coach added. "Jordan had such a day-to-day consistency, work ethic, toughness and passion for BYU. We're sad to see anybody have that type of injury, but especially Jordan. Eathyn is experienced and will be effective at that position."
COUGARS DOMINATE WEEKLY AWARDS: Three Cougars were honored Monday by the Mountain West Conference for their performances last weekend in a 49-10 victory over Colorado State.
Safety Andrew Rich received defensive player of the week honors after recording nine tackles, an interception and a forced fumble against the Rams. Both turnovers led to BYU touchdowns.
Placekicker Mitch Payne was the special teams player of the week after converting all seven of his point-after attempts.
NOT LOOKING AHEAD: Though BYU's big rivalry showdown with Utah is next week, the Cougars say they're not having a hard time dealing with friends, family, fans and the media that bring up The Big Game.
"They ask about it, but I block it out," Hoffman said. "We're taking it one game at a time. Ever since we've been 1-4, we've focused on that. It hasn't crossed my mind at all. I'm just thinking about getting a win this week against New Mexico."
Cougars on the air
New Mexico (1-9, 1-5 MWC) at BYU (5-5, 4-2)
Saturday, 4 p.m.
LaVell Edwards Stadium
TV: The mtn.
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM