New Mexico Drops Close One To Washington State 21-17
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/03/2004
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Sept. 3, 2004

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AP Sports Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Washington State's defense picked up where it left off last season.

The Cougars, who led the nation last year in takeaways (48), came up with two interceptions and blocked a punt in the fourth quarter, and Josh Swogger threw for three touchdowns in a 21-17 win over New Mexico on Friday night.

It was a rousing start for a defensive unit that lost nine starters and has 12 freshmen and sophomores on its two-deep roster.

Swogger threw scoring passes of 13 yards to Trandon Harvey and 4 yards to Troy Bienemann in the fourth quarter to erase a 17-7 New Mexico lead in the season opener for both teams.

The first score finished off a 14-play, 82-yard drive in which Swogger completed eight passes, including one on fourth-and-9 to Jason Hall to the New Mexico 11. Two plays later, Swogger found Harvey open with 9:54 left.

The Cougars' defense forced New Mexico to punt, and cornerback Omowale Dada made the block. Teammate Tyron Brackenridge recovered the ball and went out of bounds at the New Mexico 4. On the next play, Swogger threw to Bienemann, who made a one-handed catch at the back of the end zone.

"We really pulled together as an offense in the second half," Swogger said. "After we scored, the defense got fired up and let me know they were going to get the ball back. They got the blocked punt and that ended up being the deciding factor."

New Mexico's next drive ended near midfield with Husain Abdullah's interception of a pass by Kole McKamey.

"It was a tale of two halves," Doba said. "I thought defensively in the first half we played really well and in the second half the defense got us going."

Washington State's comeback negated a sterling one-two punch by New Mexico halfback DonTrell Moore and wide receiver Hank Baskett. Moore scored on a 61-yard run and rushed for 167 yards on 24 carries, the most by a running back against WSU since former Ohio State star Maurice Clarett had 230 yards in 2002.

Baskett caught nine passes for 165 yards, but it wasn't enough.

"It was disappointing after the way we had played," Baskett said. "Mistakes just got us tonight."

New Mexico's losing streak against Pac-10 schools reached eight games, including losses the last two years in the Las Vegas Bowl to UCLA and Oregon State. The Lobos' last win over a Pac-10 team was in 1979.

Moore, who rushed for just 12 yards against Oregon State in last year's bowl loss, got 82 of his yards in the third quarter.

Washington State, which lost 16 starters from a 2003 team that went 10-3 and beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl, struggled until its defense took over in the fourth quarter.

Wes Zunker's 21-yard field goal with 14:57 remaining gave New Mexico a 17-7 lead, but it was all Cougars after that. Alex Teem had two interceptions, and the Cougars' defense, which gave up 222 yards to New Mexico's offense in the third quarter, held the Lobos to 61 yards in the final 15 minutes.

Through the first three quarters, Moore and Baskett gained easy yards.

Baskett had catches of 54 and 45 yards, the first to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Adrian Byrd in the third quarter, and the second leading to Zunker's field goal.

All of the scoring was in the second half.

Washington State broke the scoreless tie early in the third quarter after Teems intercepted a McKamey pass at the New Mexico 18. On third-and-8, Swogger found Chris Jordan just inside the end zone.

New Mexico came right back to tie it on Byrd's run. The McKamey-to-Baskett pass to the Cougars' 16 and a run by McKamey on the option to the 1 set up Byrd for his first career rushing TD.

Moore's 61-yard scoring run put the Lobos up 14-7 with 7:04 left in the third quarter.

New Mexico had 415 total yards to Washington State's 271, but the Cougars' defense forced four turnovers. That and Swogger's ability to make crucial completions in the fourth quarter were the difference.

"We really lacked concentration when we had them in long yardage situation and we gave up some big plays in coverage," said New Mexico coach Rocky Long.