Dec. 3, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Football - On The Mountain West Road
Saturday: Boise State 45, New Mexico Lobos 0
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was a 45-0 mismatch on the scoreboard and that comes as no surprise. The Boise State Broncos are Top Ten, bowl bound, entrenched in a winning tradition, and the New Mexico Lobos need to get to the Bob Davie era as quickly as possible.
There is much to change with New Mexico football.
But what was reflected on the cold and blue field in Boise, Idaho when it came to effort, courage and fight were two teams of equal status.
It was a game in which the battered Lobos could have easily rolled over and put a quiet end to a frustrating season that eventually produced a hurtful 1-11 record. But the Lobos didn't want to be measured simply by the numbers on a scoreboard. So, they fought.
And one Lobo - Carmen Messina- wanted to separate himself from every other defender who has ever strapped on a helmet to play football in the Mountain West Conference.
And he did it.
The fire and the passion that Messina has brought to New Mexico football for four seasons burned at an all-time high Saturday in Boise, Idaho.
UNM's senior linebacker combined that passion with exceptional ability to become the all-time tackling leader in the Mountain West Conference. Better yet, Messina passed his boyhood hero - Chicago Bears superstar Brian Urlacher - on the UNM tackling charts.
"Carmen was simply unbelievable out there," said Lobo interim head coach George Barlow. "He was everywhere."
Possibly the most staggering numbers of the game did not appear on the Bronco Stadium scoreboard, but rather jumped off the game's defense stats.
Carmen Messina had 21 tackles. Just to make sure you don't think that number is a typo, we'll throw it out again. Messina had 21 tackles - nine solo and 12 assisted. UNM also got 10 tackles from Bubba Forrest, and nine apiece from Dallas Bollema and Spencer Merritt.
Those Lobos were included in a number of Lobos, who came to Boise with their A game. You could see the fight in Deon Long, an exceptional talent, who wanted the football in his hands. Long caught eight passes.
You could see the pride in a UNM offensive line, which stood strong in front of a fierce Bronco front four and allowed their quarterback to be sacked only twice.
You could see the "want" in that quarterback, B.R. Holbrook, who completed 16-of-28 passes for 145 yards without an interception.
Maybe it wasn't a fulfilling game for the Lobos on the scoreboard, but it was a clean game and actually reflected the improvement and the discipline that interim coach George Barlow has worked hard to inject into these Lobos.
New Mexico obviously was overmatched against a Top Ten Bronco team that rolled out 542 total yards and posted a 31-0 halftime lead. However, the Lobos didn't shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers or penalties. The Lobos had no interceptions, lost no fumbles and were penalized only five times for 43 yards.
Actually, the Lobos won the turnover battle. The Broncos' backup quarterback, Joe Southwick, was picked off by UNM's Dante Caro at the 10:58 mark of the fourth quarter.
"We wanted to play smart and not help the Broncos by giving up the football or being penalized," said UNM's Barlow. "I was proud of the focus our kids brought into the game. They played with great effort and it has been a special part of my coaching career to have been able to lead these players into games.
"I thought the effort they gave against great odds was a tribute to their character as individuals and as a team."
The Lobos' main focus on defense was to slow down Boise State's phenomenal quarterback, Kellen Moore, and a high-octane Bronco offense. The Lobos, like every team that has played Boise State this season, couldn't do it.
Moore was precise and deadly, completing 85 percent of his passes against the UNM defense. The winningest quarterback in NCAA history completed 28-of-33 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns. The Lobos did sack the Bronco senior one time.
Boise State also received 108 rushing yards from Doug Martin on 22 carries. Bronco Mitch Burroughs had six catches for 86 yards and Tyler Shoemaker had six for 82 yards. Boise had 12 players catch passes. Boise State ended up with 394 passing yards, going 38-of-46.
The Lobo offense had a few positive moments against one of the top defenses in the nation, but not enough. UNM's Deon Long had another standout game, hauling in eight passes for 94 yards, but UNM had only eight first downs to 31 for Boise.
The game probably was over in the first quarter when Boise State put 21 points on the scoreboard. It was 31-0 at the half, with Moore getting three touchdowns through the air and Martin getting one on the ground from four yards out.
Martin scored again on a 40-yard burst in the third quarter and with Boise State up 38-0, the Broncos went heavily to their bench. Moore was replaced by Southwick, who had a respectable outing, going 9-of-12 for 73 yards.
Boise State went into the game hoping to combine a win over New Mexico with a loss to Houston in order to breathe life into their Bowl Championship Series hopes. That scenario played out perfectly as Houston lost 49-28 to Southern Miss in the Conference USA championship game.
Houston's loss opened an at-large spot in the BCS postseason, but since Boise State did not win the Mountain West title, the Broncos are not eligible for an automatic BCS bowl bid.
TCU, the Mountain West champion, could get an automatic bid, if the Horned Frogs can jump from No. 18 to No. 16 in the rankings. TCU ended the season with a romp over lowly UNLV, but that win will not help TCU in the computer rankings.
As for the Lobos, the Bob Davie era starts full speed on Monday. The season of 2011 is over for UNM. The march forward is now in the hands of Davie.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and Sports Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.