Brigham Young Cougars quarterback James Lark has received most of the attention after the 50-14 win over New Mexico State. That is understandable. Six touchdown passes and the most passing yards by any BYU quarterback in four years casts a long shadow. Hidden in that shadow was an equally strong defensive performance by the Cougar defense.
Pardon me, for a moment, while I shine a little bit of light on how well Kyle Van Noy, Ezekiel Ansah, Brandon Ogletree, and the boys played.
The Cougar D ended the regular season allowing just 187 yards of total offense (158 pass, 29 rush). New Mexico State averaged just 1.1 yards per rush. The Aggies earned just 10 first downs. BYU had five sacks, including a series of back-to-back-to-back sacks that set up a 4th and 32. New Mexico State had six three-and-out series on offense, including four of their final five drives.
For the first time since the Hawaii game, BYU gave up less than its season average in both passing and rushing yards. It was the first game since Georgia Tech that the defense gave up less than its season average in total offense. The Cougars are now number three in the nation in total defense allowing an average of 266.3 yards per game.
The BYU defense had five sacks or more just one other time this season (6 vs. Weber State). Only one other time did a Cougars opponent have less than 11 first downs (Hawaii, 9). The 29 rushing yards and 1.1 average yards per rush were the second best marks all season (Washington State had -5 rushing yards and -0.3 YPR). The 158 passing yards was the fourth fewest passing yards by a BYU opponent this season (Hawaii, 108; Notre Dame, 119; Georgia Tech, 40). Georgia Tech (157) and Hawaii (149) are the only teams to have fewer total yards against BYU than New Mexico State did.
New Mexico State may be a bad team with a terrible 1-10 record, but the Cougar defense throttled the Aggies better than their other 10 opponents. Going into the game, New Mexico State was averaging 244.7 passing yards and 97.1 rushing yards per game. That means BYU held the Aggies to 64.6 percent of their season average for passing yards, 29.9 percent of their season average for rushing yards, and 54.7 percent for total offense. No team held New Mexico State to less than 187 yards of total offense or less than 29 rushing yards. Only Ohio (135) and San Jose State (100) held New Mexico State to less than 158 passing yards.
Many times this season, attention and praise has been heaped on the Cougar defense. For the way they played against New Mexico State, this is another one of those times.
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