ALBUQUERQUE The Mountain West's highest-scoring offenses will clash today in University Stadium when BYU visits New Mexico, and the team with the weakest defense might lose out in this key league matchup.
New Mexico leads the conference in scoring, averaging 34.7 points a game. The Cougars are second, primarily because of turnovers, at 28.8 points per game.
Where the Cougars sport the league's No. 1 pass offense, ranked sixth nationally, the Lobos are third and rank 27th in the NCAA. The Cougars are No. 1 in the league in total offense, averaging 493.2 yards a game to No. 2 New Mexico (449.8 ypg).
Asked if he expected another shootout like he got against Tulsa, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said no, but admitted he wasn't good at predicting outcomes of games.
Led by quarterback Donovan Porterie and receivers Marcus Smith and Travis Brown, the Lobos have emerged as a big-play offense under former Michigan State offensive coordinator Dave Baldwin. Mix in the league's most productive running back, Rodney Ferguson (118 ypg), and New Mexico has a solid, balanced way of getting after defenses.
This may be the best Lobo offense Rocky Long has had at New Mexico.
"To this point, it appears they have the most weapons," said Mendenhall. "I think they are being coordinated very well. I think only the end of the year will determine through production if they are the best."
Mendenhall said the Lobos like to establish the run with Ferguson and he wouldn't be surprised if they take shots at his secondary after looking at the Tulsa tape.
"The number of weapons is what I have been impressed with," Mendenhall said. "Both edges have great speed, their running back is big and physical, and their quarterback is athletic and makes good decisions. I would say they have a typical New Mexico offensive line. They are big and physical.
"They are playing with an edge to them, similar to how coach Long coaches. They're tough. It is going to present a number of challenges. With the start they are off to, I think New Mexico could weigh in heavily in terms of how this conference race shapes out."
The Lobo defense ranks fourth in the MWC behind Wyoming, BYU and Air Force.
Long knows he'll have his hands full with BYU sophomore quarterback Max Hall, running back Harvey Unga, BYU's tight ends and receivers, and a big offensive line.
"Everything concerns me," Long told reporters this week when asked about the Cougars."They're a big, strong, physical football team at the line of scrimmage or at the defensive line and linebackers, and their offensive line and their running backs are big, strong, physical guys. You could tell when they played Air Force. Air Force is a good football team, but couldn't match the physical dominance of BYU. We'll have the same challenge that Air Force had trying to hold up against the offensive line of BYU. Their running backs are big, strong guys too that can make you miss, but they'd just as soon run over you."
KESSMAN GONE: BYU freshman receiver Ryan Kessman, one of six players suspended from practice for breaking team rules, will transfer. "Ryan has expressed his desire to leave BYU," head coach Bronco Mendenhall said in a news release on Friday. "We have granted his release and wish him well." Kessman is from San Jacinto, Calif.
On the air
BYU (2-2, 1-0) at New Mexico (3-1, 0-0)
Today, 6:30 p.m.; University Stadium
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