Sept. 27, 2009
Saturday: New Mexico State 20, Lobos 17
Up Next: Lobos at Texas Tech (Oct. 3)
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was a goal-line stand that almost sealed a huge win for Lobos over Aggies. It was a 39-second drive that almost went down as one of the best in Lobo history. It was a 47-yard field goal that almost became one of the more dramatic to ever be booted in University Stadium.
But it was an evening of almosts Saturday night for the Lobos as the NMSU Aggies drove through the heart of the Lobo defense in the closing minutes and posted a stunning 20-17 upset over the University of New Mexico.
The Aggie score with 39 seconds to play appeared to seal the deal for the visitors from Las Cruces, but UNM's senior quarterback Donovan Porterie led a spirited Lobo march in a last-ditch effort to produce a Lobo win.
Porterie began the drive at the UNM 20-yard line and completed passes to Ty Kirk, Chris Hernandez and Kirk again to set up Lobo kicker James Aho with a 47-yard field goal attempt. Aho marched onto the field with two ticks left on the game clock.
The ball sailed through the cool air of University Stadium as the gun sounded. Aho pushed the kick a tad wide, a tad short. The loss dropped UNM to 0-4 on the season.
"I thought my heart was going to jump out of my mouth," said Lobo Johnathan Rainey of his emotions while watching the kick. "It felt so bad."
Said Lobo Coach Mike Locksley: "I told them it should hurt. Losing hurts. We had the opportunity to win the ball game and we didn't take care of it."
Locksley didn't make any excuses for his team's loss and didn't try to take anything away from the Aggies after their come-from-behind win. "You have to give New Mexico State credit," he said. "They wanted the game and they took it. They finished the job, the Lobos didn't."
The Aggies trailed the Lobos 17-13 with 7:39 left to play when they took over the ball at their own 41-yard line and pretty much decided it was do-or-die at that point. The Aggies got their "do," and the Lobos got a whole bunch of pain.
NMSU basically ran right at the Lobos trying to capitalize on the best part of the Aggie game, which was giving the ball to tailback Seth Smith. The Aggies worked the ball to the New Mexico 9-yard line and three straight Smith carries left the Aggies looking at a 4th-and-goal at the UNM 4-yard line.
NMSU quarterback Jeff Fleming, who took over for starter Trevor Walls, rolled to his right and drilled the winning TD pass to Marcus Anderson. The Aggies converted the kick and stood on their 20-17 lead with 39 seconds to go.
"Obviously, I'm disappointed," Locksley said of his Lobos dropping to 0-4 heading toward a Saturday game at Texas Tech. "I got a team in that locker room that is very disappointed.
"I have to find a way to get this thing corrected. There are no excuses for it. We had chances to win the ball game and we didn't do what we needed to do to win. To lose to your rival at home, it hurts me for those guys (Lobos)."
The Lobos beat the Aggies in total offense 356 yards to 218 yards. The Aggies went 37:55 in time of possession to 22:05 for UNM. Rainey didn't use the extra 15 minutes on the field as an excuse for allowing the Aggies to drive to the winning score.
"It was execution," he said.
The Lobos actually had more yards on the ground (150 to 122) and through the air ( 206 to 96) than NMSU. Freshman Demond Dennis led UNM with 98 yards rushing and James Wright had 47 on four carries before leaving the game with a mild hamstring pull.
NMSU's Seth Smith topped all rushers with 113 yards. The 5-foot-8 Smith was the workhorse of the game with 31 carries. Walls got the start for NMSU and went 10-of-19 with one interception and no TD passes. Fleming went 4-of-5 and hit the big TD in the fourth quarter.
Porterie was solid, going 16-of-28 for 206 yards and threw his first TD of the season. He threw a first-quarter interception that the Aggies converted into a 42-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Dennis scored from one yard out to push UNM up 7-3 at the 7:43 mark of the first quarter. The Aggies got a TD and a field goal in the second quarter to slip ahead 13-7 before Porterie hit a diving Chris Biren on a 2-yard pass to pace UNM to a 14-13 halftime lead.
The Lobos' only score in the second half was a 30-yard field goal by Aho that pushed UNM up 17-13. The Aggies closed the scoring with the 4-yard TD pass from Fleming to Anderson.
Locksley said a key drive for the Lobos began with 10:02 left to play in the game. UNM was called for a tripping penalty, which pushed them back to the 10-yard line. The Lobos eventually punted the ball away, giving the Aggies good field position at their 41-yard line. NMSU marched in for the winning TD.
"That's the drive we needed to finish," said Locksley.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous GoLobo.com articles can be found on The Richard Stevens Corner.