BYU football now sits with a record of 6–5 following a loss this past weekend to San Jose State and is looking to rebound against a struggling New Mexico State team Saturday in BYU’s final regular season game.
The New Mexico State Aggies currently have a record of 1–9, and their sole win has come against Sacramento State, part of the FCS — Football Championship Subdivision — in the first week of the season.
Bright spots for them have been few and far between since that win as they suffered blowout losses the previous two weeks against San Jose State and an unimpressive Auburn team. New Mexico State also suffered a 41–7 loss to Utah State and 26–18 loss to Idaho prior to those games. In comparison, BYU beat Utah State 6–3 and beat Idaho 52–13 earlier this season.
“(The Aggies are talented, but they turn the ball over a lot, and they have been struggling to stop the run defensively,” BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said. “Offensively, they have a lot of atheltes but struggled with turnovers and consistency.”
The Cougars look to use this game to build positive momentum heading into the Poinsettia Bowl scheduled to be played Dec. 20 against the No. 2 selection from the Mountain West. Current projections slate the opponent to be the San Diego State Aztecs (8–3).
Senior quarterback Riley Nelson continues to play injured, and Mendenhall told reporters after the San Jose State game they had backup senior quarterback James Lark ready to go just in case, as they were not sure about Nelson’s health.
After Monday night’s practice, Mendenhall further commented about the quarterback situation and stated the team is not close to turning to Lark unless it is because of an injury to Nelson.
“During the last game a couple times it was maybe a breath or two away from putting James (Lark) in,” Mendenhall said. “He’ll play and he’ll start this week at New Mexico State if Riley can’t play for any reason.”
Mendenhall said the reason for sticking with Nelson over playing Lark, who is a prototypical pocket-passer, is for the sake of continuity in the offensive system. This was the main reason why, according to Mendenhall, Lark was passed up by the freshman Taysom Hill on the depth chart earlier this season.
Despite some costly turnovers, Nelson finished the San Jose State game with one of his best passing performances of his career and is looking to continue strong against an Aggie defense that has given up 466.6 yards per game and is ranked 108th in the nation in scoring defense.
Nelson’s favorite target, junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman, has had a big season and is 48 yards away from eclipsing the 1,000 yards receiving mark this season. He also will look to extend his streak of 30 consecutive games with a reception.
New Mexico State also has a big-play receiver of their own in Austin Franklin, who has accounted for 1,135 yards catching on 66 receptions and nine touchdowns.
The Cougar defense has been a dependable staple throughout the season, but it has been vulnerable against passing attacks recently, as seen in the first quarters against both San Jose State and Oregon State.