You saw the preview and prediction, now here are three keys for BYU and UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday:
1. Establish the run. JJ Di Luigi, Josh Quezada and Bryan Kariya have done a good job all season. The trio has combined for 16 of the team’s 20 rushing touchdowns. Now they have an opportunity to go out with a big game against a team ranked No. 90 against the run. Getting the running game going will help open up the play-action pass and get Jake Heaps into more manageable situations.
2. Heaps record watch. It has been an up-and-down year for the true freshman, who came in as one of the most highly touted quarterback prospects in the country. But he is the first freshman ever to start a bowl game for the Cougars in program history and is three touchdown passes away from breaking Ty Detmer’s school freshman record of 13. He has thrown for two or more touchdowns just three times this season.
3. Keep up the defensive pressure. BYU is a totally different unit with Bronco Mendenhall in charge of the defense. All of a sudden, teams are having a hard time scoring on the Cougars. They are playing more aggressive and more disciplined, and that is going to have to continue against the Miners.
1. Establish Kris Adams. He is the go-to guy for Trevor Vittatoe, and like a lot of players on the team, he has fought through injury. If UTEP can establish him as a deep threat, the Miners will be able to stretch the field and come up with the big plays they really need. Of course, much of this is predicated on how healthy Vittatoe is in this game.
2. Don’t make silly mistakes. UTEP has a negative turnover margin, and cannot afford to make many mistakes against a team that rarely makes them. If the Miners are going to have any chance at pulling the upset, they are going to have to play a near perfect game.
3. Get after Heaps. Easier said than done. The Miners are one of the worst teams in FBS when it comes to sacks, with only 14 this season. But they are going to have to get pressure on Heaps to get him off his rhythm and potentially force him into mistakes. Heaps has been much better at protecting the football in the second half of the season, but he still has some problems adjusting when teams blitz. If UTEP can disguise its fronts and coverages with a healthy mix of blitzes, the Miners have a chance.