Quarterback James Lark led the BYU Cougars to an impressive display of passing prowess as he and Cody Hoffman gashed New Mexico State for a 50–14 win Saturday in the final game of the regular season.
Lark finally got his first career start in the final game of his senior year and threw six touchdown passes, one shy of the all-time BYU record.
“Dream come true,” Lark said after the game describing his six-touchdown game. “It’s the only way I can really describe it. I’ve been waiting for this moment my whole life.”
His six touchdown passes were the most touchdowns thrown in a single game since 2009 when Max Hall accomplished this feat against Air Force.
Hoffman was the recipient of five of those six touchdown passes as he had a career day of his own and finished with 12 catches and 182 yards.
The junior wide receiver moved up to No. 4 on the all-time receptions list at BYU passing Margin Hooks, No. 6 in receiving yards passing Phil Odle, and he is now two touchdowns shy of matching Austin Collie’s all-time record for touchdown receptions as Hoffman now has 28 total touchdown catches.
The Cougars got off to a slow start and neither team was able to score until early in the second quarter when the Aggies got on the scoreboard first.
On the ensuing possession, Lark converted a fourth-and-goal with a five-yard touchdown pass to Hoffman and narrowed the Aggie lead to 7–6 as kicker Justin Sorensen missed the PAT off the upright for his first PAT miss of his career.
The Cougars would roll until halftime scoring two more times and taking a 20–7 lead into the half and never look back.
The defense was not about to have a late-season let-up as they arrived in their usual dominant manner and held New Mexico to 187 total yards.
Sixty-seven of those yards came on a long touchdown pass where Aggie receiver Kemonte Bateman made an impressive catch, which SportsCenter later recognized as a “Top 10” play.
Senior Brandon Ogletree led the Cougar defense with 10 tackles and junior Kyle Van Noy increased his sack total to 11.5 this year by tallying three more against the Aggies.
Lark finished the game connecting on 34 of 50 passes for 384 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 172.1.
In comparison, Riley Nelson’s best single-game rating was 157.2 against Idaho and Taysom Hill’s was 125.1 against Utah State.
Lark now is 50–74 (67.5 percent) for 534 yards, eight touchdowns, no interceptions and a season quarterback of rating of 163.9 which ranks seventh-best in the entire nation.
Lark’s 34 completions is also the most since 2007 (Hall against Tulsa) and his 384 passing yards is the most ever for a first-time starter.
After the game, Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall said the decision on who will start the bowl game has not been made, but he hinted that he expects Nelson to be healthy in time for the Dec. 20 game and be the starter.
“It hasn’t been decided, but in my opinion I still think Riley (Nelson) is our starter at this point,” Mendenhall said. “We might give James (Lark) a harder look.”
He continued by saying he does not want for the current tone of a possible quarterback controversy overshadow Lark’s commitment and dedication to the program.
“I’d really like the tone of what happened today to be a celebration of James (Lark)’s commitment to the program, how long he’s battled and how well he did when he got his opportunity.” Mendenhall said.
Lark certainly made the most of his opportunity in arguably the best performance ever by a backup quarterback.
The Poinsettia Bowl pits BYU against San Diego State on Dec. 20. San Diego State is tied atop the Mountain West Conference and after suffering early-season losses at Washington, at home to San Jose State and at Fresno State, they have ripped off seven straight wins, including a two-point win at No. 19 Boise State.