BYU's football team ended Saturday's game with New Mexico with about as much as it could have expected - a 55-31 victory, a notch in the WAC win column, no injuries and a decline in the AP and UPI Top 25 polls.
Huh?Another ranking setback after a win? This is an interesting phenomenon. BYU has a bye, it rises in the rankings. BYU wins, it drops. Are the voters a week behind, or are they unable to make up their minds about how good the Cougars are?
Granted, the margin of BYU's victory was not that impressive. But has anyone noticed that Miami is ahead of BYU on both polls despite two losses, one of them to the Cougars?
A writer from an Albuquerque newspaper said in the pressbox Saturday that New Mexico played its best football of the season in scoring its first 21 points against BYU. He also said that quarterback Jeremy Leach played his best game in quite a while. Poll voters, of course, can't know that. All they see is the score, which shows that BYU struggled for a while with a 2-6 team.
At any rate, BYU might have protected its ranking better by giving up fewer points, especially considering that the Lobos have only scored more than 31 in two other games this season (against UTEP and Texas Tech), but a little rustiness on BYU's part had to be expected after they had played one game in a month.
And speaking of best games, it's worth noting that Y. quarterback Ty Detmer's pass efficiency for the Lobo game was 189.0. It probably wasn't his best game, since he's had so many fine games, but it raised his career pass-efficiency mark to 162.5 - good enough to make him the NCAA's all-time best.
Detmer also added to his growing list of NCAA records Saturday by generating another 300-plus yards total offense. That gives him 19 such games in his career, breaking the previous mark of 18 set by BYU's Steve Young.
Any way you look at it, Detmer shredded a Lobo defense that had set a goal of slowing him down. Before the game, New Mexico Coach Mike Sheppard said his team had a four-point plan for beating BYU. Here's the four points, and how successful they were with them:
1. Vary the defense. The Lobos wanted to confuse Detmer with different defensive looks. Probably the only confusion Detmer felt was over how easy it was to spot the New Mexico blitzes. He seemed to particularly like the defensive look in which the Lobos would decline to cover a receiver.
2. Re-route the receivers. The idea here was to force receivers out of their usual routes. Sheppard apparently neglected to tell his defensive backs not to re-route receivers downfield, or toward the end zone. Three Cougar receivers - Andy Boyce, Chris Smith and Brent Nyberg - had their longest catches of the season against the Lobos. And they made five TD catches.
3. Stop the run, force the pass. This is akin to stopping Karl Malone from shooting outside, thus forcing him to dunk. And it didn't work, anyway. BYU's running attack was hardly noticeable Saturday for all the successful passing going on, but it did manage 102 yards on 26 carries. Next step.
4. Move the ball on offense. This part of the plan worked for about a quarter and a half. At that point the Lobos had 21 points and the Cougar defense, otherwise known as safety Derwin Gray, got tired of being charitable. With Gray catching nearly as many Leach passes as the Lobo receivers, the New Mexico offense managed a field goal late in the third quarter and a garbage TD with three and a half minutes left in the game.
In the locker room after the game, Detmer put on a T-shirt that showed a sorrowful dog reclining on a wooden porch and bore this inscription: "If you can't run with the big boys, stay on the porch."
This time around, the Lobos should have stayed on the porch.