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BYU football: Cougars feeling good as they face another off week

PROVO — After demolishing a pair of Western Athletic Conference opponents by a combined total of 84-14 in back-to-back games, BYU heads into another bye week.

The Cougars (8-3) played a complete game in defeating New Mexico State 42-7 last Saturday night at LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"It was just another strong showing. Our team continues to improve," said coach Bronco Mendenhall. "I can sense it. They're playing clean, they're playing physical and they're playing well."

BYU will visit Hawaii (5-6) in its regular-season finale on Dec. 3. The Warriors lost to Fresno State at home, 24-21, last Saturday and faces Tulane this week. Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz broke his leg earlier this month and will be sidelined for the rest of the season.

The Cougars, who also had a bye two weeks ago, will practice Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday this week, then take the rest of the week off for Thanksgiving. The following week, the Cougars will practice Monday and Tuesday before flying to Honolulu on Wednesday.

"My hope is that we can not only keep improving our team, but also give them a chance to celebrate with their families for the holidays," Mendenhall said. "That's the best way I know to manage (the bye week). I'd love to see them finish with another game of steady improvement and good football, which is what we're playing right now."

Mendenhall liked what he saw from his team in all phases of the game against New Mexico State.

The Cougar defense limited the Aggies to 249 yards of total offense and only one touchdown. New Mexico State scored 48 points the previous week in a win over Fresno State.

"It's an explosive offense with talented players," Mendenhall said of the Aggies. "The defensive players responded and played excellent."

The offense accumulated 411 yards of total offense. Quarterback Jake Heaps, making his first start since Sept. 30, completed 21-of-36 passes for 238 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

Mendenhall said despite throwing a pick — which set up New Mexico State's only touchdown — Heaps played well overall.

"He delivered the ball where it needed to go the majority of the time," he explained. "A couple of throws were rushed. There were a couple of decisions that I'm sure that he would take back … He was poised, he was confident and he made a lot of great throws … I was happy for him, to lead the team and have that kind of success."

BYU's special teams was solid, too. Punter Riley Stephenson averaged 53 yards on his three punts, while Cody Hoffman recorded a 43-yard kickoff return.

The Cougars are eager to keep playing and keep winning, though they'll have to wait nearly two weeks to take the field again. After playing Hawaii, BYU faces a Conference USA foe in the Armed Forces Bowl in Dallas on Dec. 30.

"We're not satisfied. Nor will we be satisfied after the bowl game," said linebacker Kyle Van Noy. "I don't like looking to next year. Right now, we're just focused on Hawaii. We're going to prepare for them like they are our last game, just like we did this week. It's going to be a cool thing going out there. Let's hope there are no distractions for us and that we can battle it out and end up 9-3, go to our bowl game and hopefully finish 10-3. That's our goal."