3 points from BYU’s New Mexico Bowl victory over SMU

BYU finished the 2022 season in dramatic fashion, stopping a two-point attempt with eight seconds left to beat SMU 24-23 in the New Mexico Bowl Saturday night.

Here’s a look at three points from the Cougars’ win, their fourth straight to finish the season:

Sol-Jay Maiava-Peters and the BYU offense did juuuuuuuuuust enough

With Jaren Hall out with an ankle injury and Jacob Conover entering the transfer gate, Sol-Jay Mayava-Peters got his first career start at quarterback.

What did we learn about the young man from Hawaii?

It’s fun to watch at the running game. There is a lot to improve in the passing game.

Maiava-Peters ran for 96 yards for a team-high 6.9 yards per carry, and had several electrifying runs.

He ran 40 yards on BYU’s opening drive, which ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by QB on fourth-and-goal.

In the second quarter, Maiava-Peters pulled in from 12 yards on a 3rd-and-12 that extended the Cougar drive into SMU territory and led to a BYU field goal that tied the game at 10.

He clearly demonstrated his mastery of the running options game, and with Maiava-Peters at the helm, the Cougars did enough offense to win on a night where they put up just 256 yards of total offense.

BYU went heavy, trying to keep the ball out of the hands of SMU’s explosive offense — it succeeded for large parts of the game, as the Cougars ran for 209 yards, including an 88-yard touchdown run from Chris Brooks.

The Cougars’ lone offensive scoring drive in the second half spoke to that philosophy — BYU ran the ball nine straight times for 82 yards — 55 of those from Brooks — and took a 24–10 lead on Brooks’ 22-yard TD run.

The problem was, BYU didn’t have a passing threat—Maiava-Peters didn’t complete a pass in the second half, and threw an interception in the third quarter that nearly led to SMU regaining the lead.

He completed 7 of 12 passes for 47 yards for the game.

Then, the Cougars turned conservative in the fourth quarter, and that led to BYU’s three-and-out on its own possession in the final period.

That gave SMU the chance to rally late on, though the Cougars were up 24-10 late in the third quarter.

BYU’s defense made SMU earn its points

If this is any indication of what a defense led by BYU’s Jay Hill will look like, Cougar fans should be cheering for the future with their new defensive coordinator.

In a season where BYU has struggled with pressure—especially in key moments—the Cougars have played multiple times defensively, even if the Mustangs used a 14-play, 88-yard drive to score with eight seconds left and made it one point game.

SMU entered the bowl game averaging 38 points per contest, but after the Mustangs turned their first two drives into 10 points, the Cougars held it scoreless for two quarters.

Yes, SMU made two big drives in the fourth quarter, and yes, the Cougars have plenty of work defensively as they prepare to join the Big 12 Conference next year.

For the first time in a long time, there was some optimism that BYU might force some errors defensively.

Here are just some examples:

  • When SMU had a chance to go up two scores in the second quarter, BYU’s John Nelson got a sack from Tanner Mordecai, then pressured him on third down on the next play to force a punt.
  • On the Mustangs next possession, Gabe Summers caught a pass on third-and-five near midfield to force another punt.
  • Early in the third quarter, after BYU stopped on the opening drive of the half, Mordecai was pressured by Jacob Robinson on a third down play to force an incompletion and help the Cougars maintain an advantage in field position.
  • Linebacker Ben Bywater turned the game’s momentum around with a 76-yard interception return for a score—the first pick six in New Mexico Bowl history—to give BYU a 17-10 lead after it looked like SMU would regain the lead after a Maiavia-Peters interception.
  • Midway through the fourth quarter, the Mustangs dug deep into BYU territory and faced a 4th-and-2 trailing by seven. SMU attempted the conversion, but Alden Tofa pressured Mordecai, forcing the QB to run back on what ended up being a 15-yard sack.

While the Mustangs put up 389 yards of total offense and converted 10 of 18 third downs, BYU’s defense, like the offense, just made another game.

Jacob Robinson is the 2022 New Mexico Bowl Champion

Now, to play the game.

After BYU’s second straight fourth quarter and a touchdown, SMU got the ball back with three minutes to play, 88 yards for a seven touchdown.

Mordecai led an excellent 14 games, displaying poise while methodically picking off BYU’s defense.

With eight seconds left to play, Jordan Curley hit for a 12-yard touchdown pass, then SMU decided to go two seconds and win.

After a series of timeouts, the Mustang attempted a two-point conversion. After pausing for a moment, Mordecai attempted a midfield score on the QB tie.

Robinson, who finished with nine tackles, played the role of the night, smashing Mordecai just over a yard from the goal line to thwart the two-point attempt.

After SMU’s subsequent penalty attempt sailed out of bounds, the Cougars celebrated the team’s victory, with Robinson delivering the final heroic moment of the season.

In the final minute of BYU’s independence era, the Cougars were all smiles.

#points #BYUs #Mexico #Bowl #victory #SMU

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