Max Hall is more concerned about helping BYU win games than he is about breaking a school record.
As the senior quarterback nears a personal milestone, he’ll look to lead the visiting 22nd-ranked Cougars to a fifth straight victory over winless New Mexico and troubled coach Mike Locksley on Saturday in a Mountain West Conference matchup.
Hall was 20 of 22 for 312 yards and four touchdowns in BYU’s 52-0 rout of Wyoming last Saturday. Hall not only helped the Cougars (7-2, 4-1) bounce back from a 38-7 loss to then-No. 10 TCU, but won his 28th career game - one shy of tying Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer for first on the school record list.
Hall has three regular season contests and a bowl game left to try and pass Detmer - winner of 29 games from 1988-91, but he seems more focused on helping the Cougars finish strong. After visiting New Mexico (0-9, 0-5), BYU hosts Air Force and No. 16 Utah before its bowl game.
“I plan on winning the next three,” Hall said. “Really it’s an honor for me to be able to play three years here and to have a chance to be the all-time leader in wins.”
Hall has completed 65.9 percent of his passes while throwing for 10,348 yards and 82 touchdowns with 37 interceptions in 35 career games. This season, he ranks first in the MWC in passing yards (2,543), yards per game (282.6), and is tied for first with 21 touchdowns.
“A lot (of his efficiency) comes from his preparation,” said BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall, who’s team is third in the conference, one game behind co-leaders TCU and Utah.
Hall leads a BYU offense that averages 36.6 points per contest, is seventh in the nation in passing (293.6 yards per game) and tied for eighth in total offense (458.6).
Hall and the Cougars aren’t expected to have too much trouble against New Mexico, which has lost 13 in a row for its longest losing skid since a 21-game slide in 1967-69. The Lobos last won 70-7 over San Diego State on Oct. 18, 2008.
The Lobos are last in the conference in both scoring offense (15.3 points per game) and defense (36.6).
“We have very little margin for error,” said Locksley, who last month served a 10-day suspension after being accused of throwing a punch at receivers coach J.B. Gerald on Sept. 20.
Though their last four losses to BYU have been decided by a combined 17 points, the Lobos have dropped five in a row at home to the Cougars dating to a 38-28 win Nov. 15, 1997. BYU is trying to improve to 6-0 on the road for the first time since 2001.
Hall has thrown for 509 yards and five touchdowns in two games against New Mexico, including 258 and three TDs in a 21-3 home win last season.
The Cougars should have running back Harvey Unga available after he left last week’s contest with a leg injury. Unga, averaging a league-leading 97.8 yards per game, rushed 22 times for 95 yards against the Lobos last season.
New Mexico faces its second straight ranked opponent after losing 45-14 at Utah last Saturday. After gaining 200 yards in the first half, the Lobos had just 134 in the second half. Donovan Porterie threw for 186 yards and a touchdown to Ty Kirk, who caught four balls for 82 yards.
With three games left, New Mexico is jeopardy of its first winless season since going 0-11 in 1987.
“We have a lot of pride and I know we can play,” Locksley said. “Right now the big thing for us is to finish this the right way.”
Locksley’s incident has added to the misery of his first season in Albuquerque. Though Locksley admitted grabbing Gerald’s collar, he maintains he never threw a punch. He will enter an anger management program after the season.
“Coach Locksley’s behavior surrounding an argument with a member of his staff was wrong, plain and simple,” school president David Schmidly said. “He has painted this university, the athletic department, Lobo football and himself in an extremely poor light.”
New Mexico has lost five in a row versus ranked opponents - all against either BYU or Utah - dating to a 47-35 win over the then-24th ranked Utes on Oct. 25, 2003.