Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall calls a timeout.

PROVO — It seems fitting that Senior Day coincides with the day BYU football has a chance to climb above .500 and become bowl eligible.

The Cougars (5-5) need a victory today against New Mexico to own a winning record for the first time since claiming their season-opener way back in September. And they need a win to clinch their sixth straight postseason berth.

"Just winning six games to be bowl eligible, I think, is a big accomplishment for this team from where we were," said senior safety Andrew Rich.

Where were they, several weeks ago? Mired in a deep hole with an abysmal 1-4 record. BYU has gone 4-1 since.

Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall said there is "a real sense of urgency to continue to improve our football team. I think we are taking steps forward. Where we will finish remains to be seen. But I do like the direction, I do like the eagerness in which our team is approaching each practice and each game. So we are anxious to play our last home game for our seniors, and continue to improve."

That 4-1 record since that 1-4 start embodies what the senior class represents, Mendenhall said.

"Now they're battling back from that. And it's still a work in progress. We haven't arrived yet. But that they are battling has kind of endeared them to me. ... The class has remained resilient to this point. And to this point, it's been really impressive. I'd love to see them finish and have a nice end to the season."

With next week's big rivalry game at Utah looming on the horizon, senior Brian Logan is confident that the Cougars can win out.

"Definitely, if we keep playing like we're playing, man," he said. "These last few games, the offense has been outstanding. I think you're seeing (quarterback) Jake (Heaps) grow. The younger guys are stepping up and making plays. Defensive-wise, if we keep doing what we're doing, we'll be fine."

Emotions are expected to be high as the seniors play at LaVell Edwards Stadium for the final time.

"It's difficult to swallow the fact it's going to be the last time running out on the field with the guys that you love and the guys that you trust," Rich said. "I'm sure it will be an emotional time for a lot of us."

He added that Edwards Stadium is "definitely a sacred place in my heart. I've made some of the best memories of my life out there with my friends and teammates. ... It's been a dream come true to play here. I've just learned so much here. It's definitely going to be an emotional experience."

Senior defensive lineman Vic So'oto said he's thought about playing his last game at Edwards Stadium all season long.

"It's going to be bittersweet," he said. "But I'm excited to play New Mexico, get after them and go out with a bang — with a win in my last time playing there."

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Senior wide receiver Luke Ashworth is coming off a career-best performance, catching four passes for 113 yards and four touchdowns in last week's blowout of Colorado State. He's also looking forward to today's contest.

"It's going to mean a whole lot, being a senior," he said. "Obviously, we want to finish strong and finish with a good win this weekend. It's going to be a fun game."


Cougars on the air

New Mexico (1-9, 1-5) at BYU (5-5, 4-2)

Today, 4 p.m.

LaVell Edwards Stadium

TV: The mtn. Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM