Stevens: Good First Half Can't Prevent Lobos' 35-7 Loss To SDSU
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/05/2011
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 5, 2011

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New Mexico Lobos Football -- On The Mountain West Road

Saturday: San Diego State Aztecs 35, New Mexico Lobos 7 

Up Next: UNLV at Lobos, 8 p.m., Saturday -- University Stadium.

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

They marched into San Diego State territory looking more like a MASH unit than a football team, patched together a pretty good first half, leaned heavily once again on Carmen Messinaon defense, but eventually were beaten down 35-7.

Maybe a window into the battered University of New Mexico team is best opened when you consider that two Lobos, who not long ago were on the defensive side of the ball for UNM, were playing receiver spots for UNM: Jamal Merritt and Martize Barr.

"That's part of the game. We make no excuses about that," interim head coach George Barlowsaid of his hobbling Lobo team. "We don't' worry about it. Whoever is in there, we're going to coach those guys up to play.

"I thought our effort was pretty good, but we still have to cut down on mistakes like penalties and turnovers."

The Aztecs, like the Lobos, haven't exactly charged out of the gate like a sprinter, but when the Aztecs went up 14-0, it looked like the Lobos might be heading into another early hole. SDSU had punted on its first two offensive possessions of the game.

Instead, B.R. Holbrook marched the Lobos 80 yards in nine plays on an impressive scoring drive to pull UNM into a 14-7 deficit at the half. Lobo Crusoe Gongbaypunched the Lobos into the end zone of a six-yard run with 32 seconds left to play in the half.

"It was a big-time spark," said Barlow of that scoring drive. "I thought the kids were motivated , excited and focused. But we have to come out in the third quarter and do the same thing."

"We just have to stoop shooting ourselves in the foot and putting limitations on ourselves. That is what we are doing. We have to find a mature way of getting past the barrier and do it for four quarters."

The first quarter and the first half has been a huge thorn in UNM's side most of the season, but that seven-point hole after 30 minutes was a pleasant change for the Lobos. The third quarter wasn't so pleasant. Neither was the rushing of Ronnie Hillman, the FBS's top rusher, or Walter Kazee.

Hillman muscled and sprinted for 141 yards on 29 carries and a touchdown for the 5-3 (2-2 Mountain West) Aztecs and Kazee had a career-high three touchdowns. Hillman came into the game averaging 151 yards. The Aztecs had five rushing touchdowns.

The Aztecs stopped UNM on the Lobos' first possession and Kazee scored to put SDSU up 21-7. Aztec defensive back Leon McFadden went up high to intercept a Holbrook pass and the Aztecs scored again to make it 28-7 after a Hillman run. SDSU scored its final touchdown on its first possession of the fourth quarter to form the 35-7 finale.

The Lobos drop to 0-9 and will return to University Stadium this Saturday to play UNLV. New Mexico has now scored only 14 points in its past four games and has not scored in the second half in three consecutive games. Messina led UNM with 15 tackles.

"As bad as things are going for the Lobos, they came out here to fight," said SDSU coach Rocky Long, a former Lobo head coach and former Lobo quarterback. "They did not make it easy."

The win pushed SDSU to 5-3 on the year and a single win away from being bowl eligible.

The Lobos had only eight first downs to 23 for the Aztecs. Gongbay had 68 yards on 154 carries. Holbrook went 10-of-20 passing for 88 yards and two interceptions. Merritt had two catches for 18 yards. Barr also had a reception for 23 yards.

Messina led all tacklers with 15 -- 14 solo -- and Bubba Forrest had eight and Dallas Bollemahad seven. Forrest and Bollema each had five solo tackles.

SDSU quarterback Ryan Lindley had a solid night completing 16 of 27 passes for 271 yards. The Lobos also didn't have much offensive success after their single scoring drive. SDSU totaled 486 yards on offense and UNM had 162 yards on offense -- 41 in the second half. UNM had 74 yards rushing. The 162 total yards is the fourth fewest yards allowed in SDSU school history.

"We are going back and continue to grind and try to get better," said Barlow. "We have to learn to play at a level to give ourselves a chance to win. We have to learn how to finish."

Barlow said his young Lobos eliminated a lot of woes that hobbled his team in the first half in previous games. However, they resurfaced after the break.

"Those same things came back again in the third quarter," he said. "I thought maybe we had gotten over the hump, but ...

"We have to step outside the box that we have put ourselves in."