BYU dominated UTEP 52-24 in the New Mexico Bowl in the first bowl game of the season Saturday. Here is a quick analysis:
How the game was won: The BYU offense dominated. The Miners had no answer for freshman quarterback Jake Heaps, who has improved dramatically in the second half of the season. Heaps threw a New Mexico Bowl-record four touchdown passes, and BYU set a New Mexico Bowl record for points scored. UTEP also had no answer for the power run game, as JJ Di Luigi and Joshua Quezada dominated. Plenty of freshman Cougars showed bigtime promise in their last game as members of the Mountain West before going independent in 2011. BYU ended the season with wins in five of its final six games after a 2-5 start.
Turning point: Hard to pick one considering the game got out of hand early. But UTEP had a chance to cut the deficit to 14 points before the half and take momentum into the break. UTEP had the ball at the BYU 15 with 21 seconds to go. Kris Adams dropped a pass on the goal line. The Miners inched closer on their next two plays, and had the ball at the 3 with 4 seconds left. But Trevor Vittatoe overthrew Adams on a jump ball in the end zone, and UTEP trailed 31-10. BYU took the opening possession of the second half and drove 75 yards in 14 plays. Di Luigi scored from 1 yard out, and all of a sudden UTEP trailed by 28.
Stat of the game: Minus-5. First-quarter yards for UTEP.
Player of the game: Heaps, who else? Heaps went 25-of-34 for 264 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. In addition, he broke Ty Detmer's school record for touchdown passes in season by a freshman with 15. James Lark came on in relief of Heaps in the fourth quarter with the game in hand.
Second guessing: The first quarter was a nightmare for UTEP. It seemed as if the Miners were totally unprepared for the BYU blitz, and it cost them dearly. With Vittatoe hobbled because of an ankle injury, you figured BYU would bring pressure because of his immobility. UTEP had negative yards in the first quarter, while BYU racked up 143 yards and a 17-3 lead that UTEP could never overcome.
What BYU learned: The Cougars have a lot of young talent that matured and grew in the second half of the season. Heaps, Quezada, Cody Hoffman, Di Luigi and McKay Jacobson all return on offense. That sets them up very well going into 2011. Now they wait to see whether offensive tackle Matt Reynolds decides to come back to school or leave for the NFL draft.
What UTEP learned: The Miners played in their first bowl game since 2005 but could not snap out of the downward trend that plagued them in the second half of the season. You have to give Vittatoe credit for gutting out this year with torn ligaments in his ankle. He will have surgery Monday. UTEP loses many of its top players on offense, including Vittatoe, Donald Buckram and Adams so a rebuilding year could be in store.