Utah's offense didn't panic in Saturday's 28-10 win over New Mexico.
Quarterback Brian Johnson said he knew it would be "tough sledding" early on.
And it was.
For the first time since the infamous 27-0 loss at UNLV on Sept. 22, the Utes failed to score in the first quarter. They made up for it, however, with a touchdown early in the second and another one just before halftime.
"We made plays when we had to," said Johnson, who explained that the offense had adopted a specific mindset against the Lobos and their 3-3-5 defense.
It was like chopping wood, he said. Keep chopping and the tree would eventually fall.
"They do so many things defensively so we had to just keep working. It wasn't pretty. We turned the ball over a few times and gave them short fields," Johnson said. "But a win is a win and we'll take it."
It's an attitude shared by running back Darrell Mack, who downplayed becoming just the ninth player in Utah history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season. He needed just five to do it against New Mexico, but wound up with a game-high 77.
"It's nice. But I really don't care too much about that kind of stuff," Mack said. "I'd just rather get the win."
The latter improved Utah's record to 8-3 overall and 5-2 in conference play entering Saturday's showdown with rival BYU a game the Utes are eager to play.
"I'm excited for next week. It's going to be my first time getting to play against these guys," Johnson said. "It's clear they're playing well. It will definitely be a battle."
The Cougars (8-2, 6-0) have already clinched a share of the Mountain West Conference crown and can win it outright with a victory over Utah or San Diego State (Dec. 1).
"It's been a long time since we've faced off in that situation," defensive coordinator Gary Andersen said in regards to both the Utes and Cougars being on a roll at this time of the year. "It'll be a (heckuva) battle. I'll tell you that much."
Andersen noted that he and BYU assistant coach Lance Reynolds look at each other every year and joke about just playing one snap to see what happens. The last two games went down to the wire and Andersen wouldn't be surprised if the next one does as well.
"It's a big rivalry and it's always a great game," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I hope it's a great game again this year."
A big key for the Utes will be how their defense performs. After a sluggish start to the season, they've defended well in recent weeks and have played a pivotal role in Utah's win streak.
"We've always believed in ourselves. We had some bad breaks early in the season and it took an emotional toll on us," safety Steve Tate said. "But we stuck together. We've believed in ourselves from the beginning."
Defensive end Martail Burnett admits the defense has an attitude.
"We approach every game like it's our last game and focus on what we have in front of us," he said.
And that's BYU."We'll let this win soak in for a few hours," Tate said. "Now we can turn our focus to BYU and not get in trouble for it."
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