Dec. 2, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Football - On The Mountain West Road
Saturday: New Mexico Lobos (1-10) at Boise State (10-1) - Boise, Idaho
On The Air: The Mtn-TV; 770-AM KKOB - Lobo Radio Network
GoLobos.com: Game Recap, Stats, GameTracker
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It comes to an end Saturday on a Boise State field not blue from the expected cold, but blue by design and paint - a symbol of sorts for a program of exceptional accomplishment nourished by a community that wraps around its team like a warming, winter blanket.
The Lobos should have it so good and maybe the culture change promised by new Lobo coach Bob Davie will include more love from New Mexico fans. For sure, the New Mexico Lobos will find no love in Boise, Idaho from the Broncos, who might not be out to score 100, but who still want to end their season with a solid performance.
For the Lobos, there probably is a bitter-sweet feeling in ending a season that likely will go down as the third straight campaign that produced a single win. If you go by the experts' opinions, the Lobos are expected to lose by around 48 points to the Kellen Moore-led Broncos.
A moral victory for UNM might simply be to scratch some numbers on the scoreboard. The Broncos are beyond good.
In a way, the pressure is off the Lobos as they head toward this monumental challenge in Boise. The Lobos beat UNLV and the fear of a winless season is over. They have one last chance to group as a pack in 2011 and, if you ignore the odds against UNM in this game, it is a game of great opportunity for the Lobos.
They get to play against one of the nation's top teams, one of the nation's top quarterbacks, one of the nation's best offenses, and one of the nation's top defenses. There is a reason the Broncos are ranked in the Top 10.
And do you think Lobo linebacker Carmen Messina would rather end his Lobo career playing Broncos or the Little Sisters of the Poor?
Don't you think Messina is licking his chops for a chance to knock down Kellen Moore?
The Lobos will have it tough Saturday. The Broncos are an unbelievable 81-3 at home since 1999. The Lobos have not won on the road since Oct. 20, 2007.
Lobo fans likely won't be pleased by the final outcome on the scoreboard, but we'll wait and see what happens there. However, there are lots of other reasons to tune into this game and watch the proud Lobos end a frustrating and challenging season.
Of course, Messina might be the main reason. This overachieving linebacker has led the nation and the Mountain West in tackles during his four-year reign in the middle of the UNM defense. Messina plays with heart and courage and full dedication to both his sport and his teammates. There are few Lobos who have equaled what Messina has given to New Mexico.
There also is another classy Lobo, who should be appreciated for what he has given to this Lobo team, especially in the weeks that followed the dismissal of Mike Locksley.
The job handed to interim head coach George Barlow was an almost impossible task. He picked up the pieces of a team and a program that was reeling from injury, brutal losses, and psychological trauma.
Barlow accepted the challenge saying his main thrust was to "do it for the kids." Sounds good, but with Barlow you never once thought the words were hollow or simply coachspeak. The job he did over the last few weeks also should be highlighted on his resume.
Maybe the best way to put it is to say Barlow not only made the Lobos a better team, he made them a better program.
"It's been difficult, but it's been fun for me," said Barlow, applauded by the media at his final media luncheon on Tuesday. "We tried to put the kids first and tried to put them in situations to help them be successful."
But back to Boise and the Broncos.
Boise is coming off a 36-14 win over Wyoming in Bronco Stadium. Moore, a longshot Heisman Trophy candidate, is ranked No. 12 on the national charts, averaging 290.4 yards passing per game. He had 3,194 yards on the season.
Maybe the most stunning of Moore's numbers is his touchdown-to-interception ratio. He has tossed for 38 touchdowns against seven interceptions. Moore has 137 career TDs vs. 26 picks. He simply does not make many mistakes. He has 48 wins as a starting QB - the most in NCAA history. If there was a four-year Heisman award, it would be shipped to Boise.
Boise State coach Chris Peterson called his senior, "the best pocket passer I've ever been around." There are reasons for that. His line honors the health of its quarterback. And Moore is exceptional in the easy times and in the crunch times.
"He gets it done in crunch situations," said UNM's Barlow "He likes the pressure. The game has slowed down for him."
The Lobos are hoping to put some "crunch" on the 6-foot Moore and produce some crunch times. It will take an exceptional effort on both sides of the football in order to worry the Broncos.
This is a complete 10-1 Bronco team, that lost to TCU. Moore, with more than 14,000 career passing yards, paces a potent Bronco offense, but the Boise State defense led by Tyrone Crawford also is exceptional.
"They are really good on defense," said Barlow. "I think that's something that gets overlooked with them."
The Boise State offense tops the Mountain West in total offense (447.6 yards) and also total defense (326.4). The Broncos pace the MW in scoring offense (43.1 points per game), but also in points allowed (19.9).
Moore is the offensive star, but running back Doug Martin has 1.038 yards going into the UNM game. He has 40 career TDs. Moore has talented receivers in Matt Miller and Tyler Shoemaker - second and third respectively in the Mountain in catches per game.
"We'll try to contain what they do, maximize effort and cut down mistakes," said Barlow. "The guys are excited to go to Boise and try to do what people think we can't do."
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