Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
PROVO - BYU will play New Mexico State for the first time in its history Saturday night in the final game of the season at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
Kick off is set for 8:15 p.m. MT, and there is snow in the forecast.
Like its match up against Idaho last week, the Cougars will be expected to dominate this one, but will they? After looking at the match ups close up, here is a prognostication of what will happen.
BYU rushing attack vs. New Mexico State
Everything worked last week against Idaho, although BYU did struggle at times with its short-yardage run packages. JJ Di Luigi and Michael Alisa led the Cougars, but with senior Bryan Kariya getting the call often, responding with two touchdowns.
New Mexico State, which is giving up 207.7 rushing yards per game, can be had on the ground. The Aggies will present a base 4-3 defensive system that is nothing new to the Cougars.
“We’re very familiar with their coach DeWayne Walker, who coached here, but also coached at UCLA when we played them,” said Di Luigi. “The concepts are things we’ve all seen before, but they’re good concepts, so they’ll be a challenge.”
There haven’t been many defensive alignments that Di Luigi hasn’t seen as he looks to wrap up his final season as a Cougar. He’s learned a lot of lessons during his time, one of which is not to overlook anyone, among other things.
“It’s like any game where we’re focusing more on what we do, and our execution more than anything,” he said. “We’re looking to improve with every game, and you can’t do that, over-looking your opponent.”
New Mexico State’s two leading tacklers are its two safeties, which is hardly a good sign for any defense because it shows that opposing teams consistently getting into the defensive backfield.
Fans can expect the bulk of the running back duties to go to Di Luigi and Kariya with it being their final game in LaVell Edwards Stadium. The Aggies don’t look to have much that will stand in the way of BYU gaining well over 200 yards in this game.
BYU passing attack vs. New Mexico State
With Jake Heaps under center, the Cougar passing game will change. Against Idaho, fans saw more straight drop-backs and less play-action and can look for the same against the Aggies.
The Aggies give up 258.6 yards per game through the air, and they'll be looking to defend the Cougars with both zone- and man-coverages while blitzing on occasion.
“We expect them to be blitzing a lot, trying to through off our timing,” said Di Luigi. “They’re a solid defense that will try and throw a lot of different looks at us.”
This is a big game for Heaps. With a dominant performance, he could shake things up at the quarterback position, perhaps giving coaches second-thoughts on running with Riley Nelson into next season. This looks to be the perfect matchup for him, with the Aggies stopping almost no one with their defense throughout the year.
BYU rush defense vs. New Mexico State
Save for an 82-yard touchdown run by Idaho late in the game, the Cougar rush defense was completely dominant last week. This week they’ll be facing a much different ground attack from the Aggies.
While Idaho ran it straight ahead from tight formations, New Mexico State prefers to spread the field.
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