James Lark was fantastic in his first career start, even if it was seven years after his high school career ended. With New Mexico State dead set on stopping the BYU run, Lark threw the ball 50 times. He completed 84 percent of his passes in the first half, and 68 percent for the game. He had 384 passing yards and 6 touchdown passes, which are both the most by any BYU quarterback since 2008. Perhaps most importantly, Lark had zero turnovers. He was in every way a “BYU quarterback.”
2. 200 yard rusher.
As noted above, New Mexico State’s strategy was to stop the BYU run and force the untested quarterback to beat them. Jamaal Williams was the team’s leading rusher, but he had just 62 yards. BYU had only 136 yards rushing as a team, and 73 came on the final scoring drive.
All that effort to stop the run cost New Mexico State. While BYU didn’t have a 200 yard rusher, or anyone even remotely close, Cody Hoffman almost reached 200 receiving yards (182).
3. Worse than Idaho.
The final score was slightly worse (50-14 vs. New Mexico State, 52-13 vs. Idaho). Had BYU not missed two PATs, then the scores would have been almost identical. BYU missed a field goal on its first possession of the game, which would have made the margin of victory larger on Saturday than the game two weeks ago against Idaho. Despite the very similar scores, the BYU offense did not come out as fast as the Idaho game. The score at halftime was just 20-7 compared to 42-7 against Idaho. The slow start was a little bit expected with Lark making his first start.
The yardage comparison looks like this:
Total offense: 17 yards less against New Mexico State (520)
Passing yards: 99 yards more (384)
Rushing yards: 116 yards less (136)
Total defense: 86 yards less (187)
Rushing yards: 32 yards less (29)
Although less balanced, the offense was equivalent, unless you want to throw in a magnifying factor to account for Lark making his first start against New Mexico State compared to Riley Nelson having over a dozen starts prior to the Idaho game. The Cougar D was significantly better.
4. Bouncing back.
The quality of opponent this time around was not quite the same as the two stretches of back-to-back losses earlier this year. That helped BYU bounce back and get on the winning track. With the win, BYU is assured of a winning season, and its seventh consecutive season with at least 7 wins.
5. Bronco Mendenhall in New Mexico.
With the win, head coach Bronco Mendenhall is now 3-3 against New Mexico State in his career since 1998, and 6-0 in the state of New Mexico since coming to BYU from New Mexico in 2003.