BYU aims to make road breakthrough

Brigham Young has proven it can dominate at home, but now the Cougars have to prove they can win away from LaVell Edwards Stadium.

BYU (2-2) visits New Mexico on Saturday to face a Lobos team that has won three straight since losing its opener to Texas-El Paso. One of New Mexico’s victories came at Arizona, which BYU beat 20-7 in its season opener Sept. 1.

The Cougars, coming off a 31-6 victory over Air Force, must continue to improve if they are to be considered a serious contender for the Mountain West Conference championship.

"To this point it appears they have the most weapons," coach Bronco Mendenhall said of the Lobos. "Both (wide receivers) have great speed, and I would say they have a typical New Mexico offensive line. They’re big and physical."

There was a lot for BYU to build on in its victory over Air Force, particularly defensively. The Cougars limited the Falcons to 133 yards rushing and 231 total yards.

That was a notable improvement from the previous week when BYU gave up 595 yards at Tulsa, committed four turnovers and had 138 yards in penalties in a 55-47 defeat.

The question now: can BYU have a breakthrough in a hostile environment? The Cougars have yet to show they can, having won both home games and losing both on the road.

"I’m not sure yet," Mendenhall said. "We self-destructed at UCLA, and I didn’t have the team ready to play at Tulsa. Right now, I don’t think there’s a connection (between home and road performances). We’re a program that’s still growing."

BYU’s defense will be tested by the Lobos, who have more offensive balance than Air Force; Mendenhall likens them to Tulsa. New Mexico runs the ball well with Rodney Ferguson and has big-play ability when quarterback Donovan Porterie hooks up with Marcus Smith and Travis Brown.

"It is a different challenge," Mendenhall said. "They’re more similar to Tulsa in their ability to run the ball effectively, and they have speedy receivers who can catch and run with the football."

It’s also the Mountain West opener for the Lobos.

"They’re playing with an edge to them," said Mendenhall, who was on New Mexico’s coaching staff from 1998 to 2002, serving as Rocky Long’s defensive coordinator in 2002.

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