BYU Wins New Mexico Bowl Over SMU

BYU Wins New Mexico Bowl

It was always going to be hard to duplicate the dramatics delivered between SMU and BYU in the 1980 Holiday Bowl. Especially since these 7-5 squads had significantly less to play for. However, one team had a quarterback make his college debut. It also delivered the first pick-six in the history of the New Mexico Bowl. And it came with one final drive to decide the outcome of the game. This time, it was the defense that made the game-winning play as BYU wins New Mexico Bowl by the final 24-23.

High Powered Ponies Stifflied

With BYU missing a lot of key defensive talent, it appeared that SMU was primed to light up the scoreboard. After all, this team ranked 11th nationally in total offense (479.8 yards per game) and 12th in scoring (38.4 points per game). This team scored 77 points in regulation early in the season against Houston. But instead, head coach Rhett Lashlee saw his team get limited to 389 yards of total offense. BYU’s defense deserves even more credit considering SMU ran a total of 87 plays to the Cougar’s 54. Quarterback Tanner Mordecai only threw for 218 yards on 27-for-37 passing and two touchdowns.

Cougar Quarterback Debut

It was no secret that the BYU quarterback position had questions coming into this one. Initially, it was projected that Cade Fennegan was likely to get the start against the Mustangs. Instead, it was Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters who made his college debut as the starting quarterback. Maiaca-Peters did more work with his legs than with his arms arm as he only went 7-for-12 passing for 47 yards and one interception (which turned out to be his last passing attempt of the game. He did rush for 96 yards on 14 carries, which lead the team. The quarterback position complemented a rushing attack that controlled the game for BYU. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake’s team got chunk plays all night. The Cougars had 7 rushes of 10+ yards. BYU would finish the game with 209 rushing yards on 42 attempts as a team.

BYU Wins New Mexico Bowl With Late Game Drama

SMU found itself down 24-10 when it took the field with 1:21 remaining in the third quarter. The Mustangs then marched down the field 75 yards on 11 plays to cut the deficit to a one-score game. After getting the ball back, they again put together a methodical 14-play drive down to the BYU 39, but could not convert the fourth-and-two to keep the drive alive. But BYU was unable to do anything with their ensuing possession before punting it back to SMU with 3:01 remaining in the game from their own 12-yard line.

This time though, they took another 14 plays and scored a touchdown with eight seconds remaining. SMU decided they would not let overtime decide this game as they lined up for the go-ahead two-point conversion. After a mini-chess match with BYU calling timeouts after seeing SMU’s formations on two-consecutive plays, the Cougar defense talked Mordecai a yard short of the endzone. A harmless onside kick attempt that bounced out-of-bounce ended the last comeback attempt by SMU. It was not the most conventional way BYU has ever won a football game. But this Cougar defense led the way and sends BYU into the offseason on a high note.

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