The recovery gave BYU the ball at the Aggies’ 48-yard line. Quarterback Jake Heaps made his first start since September 30 against the Aggies of Utah State. Heaps hoped to play better against these Aggies from the south than he did against the Aggies from the north. After 12 plays, senior Bryan Kariya scored from four yards out to give BYU an early 7-0 lead.
At the start of the second quarter, New Mexico State started to seize the momentum. The Aggies intercepted a Heaps pass at the BYU 38-yard line. Even with this great field position, New Mexico State needed to convert a 4th down and a 3rd down before tying the game with a 3-yard touchdown pass.
An illegal blocking penalty on the ensuing kickoff pushed BYU back to the 10-yard line. Systematically, Heaps marched BYU down the field on a 15-play drive that ended on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Heaps to Ross Apo. Momentum was back on BYU’s side.
The Cougar D used that momentum to push the Aggie offense back five yards in three plays. New Mexico State punted the ball back to BYU with less than 2:30 to play in the first half. JD Falslev returned the punt 17 yards giving the offense the ball just 46 yards away from the goal line.
BYU covered that distance in six plays. Another Heaps to Apo touchdown with 30 seconds left gave BYU a 21-7 halftime lead, and all of the momentum.
Cody Hoffman returned the second half kickoff 43 yards to the BYU 47. Heaps completed back-to-back passes for 15 yards each to put BYU in scoring range. The drive stalled at the 20 and the Cougars came away empty after a missed field goal.
The Cougar defense forced another 3-and-out highlighted by a Kyle Van Noy 7-yard tackle-for-loss on 3rd down and 2. Van Noy did not wear his number 3 jersey, but wore number 1 in honor of injured senior Jordan Pendleton. That set up the All-Senior Drive for BYU.
Seniors accounted for 100% of BYU’s offense as the Cougars started to pull away from New Mexico State. Senior J.J. Di Luigi had 14 yards receiving and 14 yards rushing. Kariya added 9 yards on the ground. Senior Matt Marshall scored from 2 yards out on his first career carry to make it 28-7 with 7:01 to play in the third quarter.
Later in the third quarter, Wagner recovered a fumble that led to another shining senior moment. Following a 31 yard run by Michael Alisa, Heaps completed his third touchdown pass of the game. This one went 9 yards to little used senior tight end Matt Edwards. Like Marshall, it was his first career catch.
Down 35-7, New Mexico State made one final, desperate attempt to get back into the game. The Aggies drove from their own 30-yard line to the BYU 20, eating up nearly seven minutes of game clock in the process. A fourth down pass fell incomplete, and BYU took over 80 yards away from the goal line.
The Cougars had already had a 90-yard scoring drive, so 80 yards was not far enough. Twice during the drive, BYU was penalized 10 yards. When Heaps connected with Falslev for a 27-yard touchdown, BYU had rolled up 100 yards of offense on the drive, 64 yards passing and 36 yards rushing.
On the second to the last play of the game, senior defensive lineman Simote Vea registered a 7-yard sack.
CO-PLAYS OF THE GAME: Matt Marshall 2-yard TD run; Matt Ewards 9-yard TD reception.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Senior J.J. Di Luigi, 12 rush, 75 yards, 3 receptions, 31 yards
Things I watched for:
- Seniors. As detailed, it was a big day for the seniors. In addition to what has been noted, BYU seniors did the following: Corby Eason—5 tackles, Hebron Fangupo—1 tackle, McKay Jacobson—3 receptions, 41 yards, Aveni Leung-Wai—1 tackle, Travis Uale—6 tackles, 1 pass break up. Matt Reynolds, Terence Brown, and Marco Thorson on the offensive line did not allow a single sack. A vast majority of the seniors have to be pleased with the way their final home game went.
- Attendance. Fewer people showed up this week than last week. Just 57,134 braved the conditions. That is 636 less than a week ago.
- Jake Heaps. Obviously, Heaps played well enough for the win. Except for the four touchdown passes, his stats won’t impress you. He was 21-36, 238 yards, 4 touchdowns, 1 int., 144.98 pass efficiency. However, he played much better than his previous two starts (UCF, Utah State), and provided enough intangible benefits to consider this a good game.
- Record Tracker. Cody Hoffman had two kickoff returns for 60 yards, which was over 40% of the yards he needed to break the single season record. If he can get just two returns in each of the last two games the record should be his.
DATE: December 3, 2011