BYU vs. New Mexico: An Outsider’s Insider View

TBS Columnist
Posted Sep 14, 2003


I like to re-watch a game and focus on what is really happening before I develop an opinion. This game was amazing. It wasn't sloppy, ugly or anything like that. It was just two teams playing at a high level. Before the game, if someone would have asked me if we would win without Matt Berry, Taufui Vakapuna, and Scott Jackson in the second half, I would have laughed. Those three players are key to everything we do. Yet we overcame.

Offense

Robbie Bosco, Todd Bradford and Gary Crowton called a great game. We took what the defense was giving and did a good job of playing under control. Crowton let our playmakers make the plays. When Berry went down, everything was scaled way back and we leaned on Reynaldo Brathwaite. Crowton didn't take unnecessary risks and he let the defense win the game.

Quarterbacks

Matt Berry did really well when he was in there. There weren't a lot of guys open, but he made the plays when he had to. It looked like he was making an effort to unload the ball and not take sacks. His touchdown pass was right after he broke his hand so I give him credit for toughness. On replay, the hand was visibly swollen before the touchdown and Berry was just toughing it out.

As for Todd Mortensen, he did what he needed to do. He didn't mess things up and he executed just enough passes to get the win. By my count, he completed one pass beyond the line of scrimmage, a five-yarder to David Christensen. We got by with it this week, but we never will again.

Offensive Line

The BYU offensive line wasn't all that bad. I give New Mexico credit because they were playing out of their minds. It's so tough to block New Mexico with only five guys because you never really know where they are coming from (eerily familiar to BYU’s defensive scheme). Our game plan revolved around quick passes and Berry was the only one capable of running such an offense. New Mexico head coach Rocky Long was much more aggressive than BYU defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall and our OL generally did a good job.

Just as in the spring, Hanale Vincent can't snap out of the shotgun. Watching both, there is quite a step down from Jackson to Vincent, so that is a position to watch against Stanford. Vincent wasn't necessarily bad, but there was a difference.

Running backs

Reynaldo Brathwaite is just awesome. He has serious wheels and he blocks out of his mind for such a small guy. He was THE offense. I've yet to see a better football player than Brathwaite in the first three games.

Naufahu Tahi seems to be the fans latest target, but he laid some great blocks to spring other players. I really like Tahi and he is a valuable player on this team blocking and catching the ball.

Wide receivers

Tough to do much without a good quarterback. Next.

Tight ends

Philip Niu is the real thing. (Crowton told TBS’ editor and publisher months ago he felt Daniel Coats and Niu were definite NFL tight end prospects – before anyone had seen Niu.) I don't know how teams are going to play us when he hits his stride. He looked fluid and fast out there. I love his 6-5 height. Does this remind anyone else of Itula Mili and Chad Lewis days, anyone? And they’re both freshmen!

New Mexico took away Coats in the first half by doubling him a lot and Mortensen didn't want any part of the middle of the field in the second half. Coats' had his usual drop on his first attempt, but didn't get another shot. He was open deep once, but Mortensen overthrew him.

Defense

Regardless of what Mendenhall says publicly, you know he wanted this game badly. When I first watched the game, I thought our defense wore down a bit in the second half. However, on a re-watch, I simply thought the Lobos executed a few plays against the right (wrong in our case) defense. I love watching this defense because they are so fit and so hungry. They are very good now, and once they learn their assignments, they will be unbelievable.

Defensive Line

The MVP of this game was Ifo Pili. This game has to go down as the best performance by a defensive tackle at BYU that I have ever seen. It's easy to miss what is going on in the pile, but Pili made play after play after play. I never thought Pili had much of a shot at the NFL, but he's changing my mind. He's having a great season.

Marquardt was good, as usual. He chased the ball well, and held the line. He didn't make as many plays as Pili, but he helped keep the linebackers free.

John Denney had some trouble this game and played less as the game went on. He had a sub-par game compared to his USC effort. It was good to see CJ Ah You out there. You can see his athleticism and he'll get better and better.

Linebackers

Generally a bad game for the group. Levi Madarieta reverted to his problem of failing to contain; Mike Tanner was hesitant, and Colby Bockwoldt simply got buried.

Defensive backs

Awesome group. It's tough to single out one guy for player of the game from this unit. Jon Burbidge may be the best playmaker of the bunch. No matter what his assignment, stuff happens. He's making a bid for Player of the Year on defense. As good as Burbidge was, James Allen also stood out. You can't run or pass on either of these guys and both make plays in space. Aaron Francisco was Francisco. He cleaned everything up.

I don't understand why teams try to throw on Jernaro Gilford. They keep trying and they consistently fail. I loved seeing Chad Barney chase New Mexico’s wide receiver across the field on a shallow crossing route. I remember him getting beaten badly on that last year against Wyoming, but he just seems faster and smarter now. We haven't lost much since Heaney went down. Nathan Soelberg is getting better each game. I love that he is always around the ball and seems to change direction very well, which is always the concern with track guys.

Special Teams

Matt Payne still can't kickoff, but he found his punting range. Payne was a key player in this victory. Toby Christensen caught the ball well. I'll take that. Allen showed what a real kickoff return should look like, but he may be too valuable as a Kat back starter to risk injury on special teams.

Overall

My overall concerns are the obvious. With injuries to Brandon Heaney, Paul Walkenhorst, Marcus Whalen, Matt Berry, Scott Jackson, Manaia Brown, Bryant Atkinson and Taufui Vakapuna, our training room is looking more and more like a MASH unit. Those are good players too. Can we keep it going? Can we overcome? I have confidence in back up quarterback John Beck. He may be up and down early, but his highs are really high. The important thing is that Beck stay healthy. If he does, the offense will roll.

I'm thrilled with this win. New Mexico played hard and we were missing some important components, but we got the win. This team looks like the antithesis of the 2002 team. We haven't exactly played the Sisters of the Poor either, and we are 2-1. I see a great season on the way, assuming we can weather the injury storm for the next couple weeks.

(c) copyright by TotalBlueSports.com


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