STEVENS: Muffed Punt Dooms Lobos to 34-17 Loss to UNLV Rebs
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/24/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 24, 2009

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Lobo Football
UNLV 34, Lobos 17
Up Next: Lobos at San Diego State, 5:30 p.m. Saturday

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It was a nasty dash of irony combined with a nasty dash of cruelty. The Lobos' defense had been working all night to push the UNLV Rebels into a punt situation and finally the Lobos did just that.

The timing seemed perfect, too. The Lobos were coming off a score that cut their deficit to 24-17 and finally forced the Rebs to kick the ball away.

The Rebs did just that. The bounding punt glanced off the leg of UNM's Bryant Williams and the Rebel got the ball at the UNM 11-yard line. UNLV's Mike Clausen went up the middle twice, the Rebs scored, and the Lobos' shot at fourth-quarter magic drizzled into a 37-14 Mountain West Conference loss.

"That took a lot of air out of us," said George Barlow, UNM's assistant head coach. "It took a lot of air out of me. It's tough to rebound when you do something like that. The guys tried to keep fighting, but it took a lot of air out of them."

Said Lobo linebacker Carmen Messina, who had 17 tackles. "It was heartbreaking."

The homecoming loss Saturday at University Stadium definitely was a tough one as it dropped UNM to 0-7 on the season with maybe tougher games ahead against San Diego State, Utah, Brigham Young, Colorado State and TCU.

"It's going to be tough (to get a win)," said Barlow, "but we're going to get back to the grind. I thought the kids continued to fight, but the thing we need to do is quit beating ourselves."

Said Messina: "We're definitely going to keep our heads up. That's the most important thing. We're not going to give in for anyone. We're still going to come out there and lay hits and play with our hearts. "

The Lobos probably had reasons to roll over early against the Rebs, but it didn't happen. UNLV came out and moved the ball well on offense and jumped up 14-0 and 21-3 at the half. The Rebs did not punt in that half.

"I thought we came out in the second half and answered the challenge," said Barlow.

UNM came out of the break and marched 80 yards to score on its first possession. A Donovan Porterie 25-yard TD pass to Daryl Jones cut the Rebs' lead to 21-10. UNLV came back to put together a solid drive, but had to settle for a field goal and a 24-10 lead with 6:38 to play in the third quarter.

UNM didn't do much on its next possession and UNLV drove again. This time a 38-yard field goal was pushed right. Momentum was beginning to shift.

The Lobos' next drive began at their 21-yard line and in the third quarter. It ended in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard touch pass from Porterie to Lucas Reed in the right corner of the UNLV end zone. Reed reached out, hauled in the well-thrown pass and fell, keeping his feet on the good side of the chalk.

The score cut the Rebs' gap to 24-17. "We definitely felt like we had the momentum.," said Porterie. "I felt we did some good things moving the ball."

The Rebs then did something they hadn't done all day. They punted. It turned out to be a great thing for the Rebs. They ended up with the ball and went 11 yards in two plays. That pretty much ended it, raising UNLV's record to 3-5.

It also ended a Vegas skid of losing 20 straight MWC road games. UNLV sealed the win with a 27-yard field goal with 4:53 to play that made it 34-17.

UNLV ended the game with 423 total yards off 78 plays. UNM tallied 287 yards on 56 plays. The Rebs' held the ball for 36:57 to 23:03 for the Lobos. UNLV had 29 first downs to 19 for the Lobos.

A huge stat was UNLV converting 11 of 16 third downs to 5 of 12 for UNM. Vegas also had only three penalties to nine for the home team. The Rebs, averaging 107 yards on the ground coming into Albuquerque, got 210 against the Lobos.

"We needed to play the run a lot better," said Barlow. "We needed to be more stout up front."

The statistical edge leaned toward Vegas, but the Lobos still had their shot. Barlow said UNM "played good enough to give ourselves a chance," and he said, "I thought the kids had a pretty good look in their eyes."

Porterie went 20-of-30 passing for 219 yards with two TDs and no picks. Reb QB Omar Clayton went 20-of-30 for 204 yards and two TDs and no picks. This battle was a wash through the air.

Clayton added 50 yards rushing to 17 for Poterie. UNLV had 210 yards on the grass to 68 for the Lobos. UNM's top carrier was Kasey Carrier with 29.

Reb Ryan Wolfe hauled in 11 passes for 118 yards and a lone TD and Michael Johnson had seven catches. UNM got four receptions apiece from Victor James and Lucas Reed.

The Lobos also got solid tackle work from Frankie Solomon with 14 and Clint McPeek with 12.

The Lobos' next game is 5:30 p.m. this coming Saturday at San Diego State. The Aztecs' defensive coordinator is ex-Lobo head man, Rocky Long.