Nov. 30, 2004
For the first time in the 106-year history of New Mexico football, the Lobos are playing in their third straight bowl game. The opponent this year is the Navy Midshipmen. UNM and the United States Naval Academy meet in the Emerald Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 30, from SBC Park in San Francisco. Kickoff is 1:35 p.m. Pacific Time, which is 2:35 in Albuquerque. The game will be televised nationally by ESPN2.
Ticket information will be announced later this week, but UNM students with current ID will be offered free tickets that can be picked up in San Francisco the week of the game. Discounted tickets for UNM faculty, staff, Lobo Club members and football season ticket holders will be available in Albuquerque early next week.
New Mexico brings a 7-4 record and a five-game winning streak into the Emerald Bowl. It's the longest skein under current head coach Rocky Long and the program's best run since starting the 1997 season 6-0 under Dennis Franchione, who is now the head coach at Texas A&M. The winning streak has provided some national recognition for the Lobos as it has 5 points in the latest Associated Press rankings and 1 point in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches' poll.
Navy is 8-2 entering this Saturday's regular-season finale against Army.
This will be the first meeting between the Lobos and the Midshipmen. UNM has faced the other two military academies, though. New Mexico first played Air Force in 1957 and the two rivals have been in the same conference since 1981. The Falcons have a 13-9 series lead. UNM is 0-2 against Army, losing at West Point in 1950 and 1969.
Air Force is the lone common opponent shared by UNM and Navy. The Lobos, playing without starting QB Kole McKamey, lost 28-23 at Colorado Springs on Oct. 9. The Middies won at Air Force 24-21, on Sept. 30.
It will be an interesting match-up in San Francisco as the Lobos currently rank 7th in the nation against the run, allowing just 93.7 yards a game. UNM is yielding just 2.6 yards per carry and has not given up a rushing TD in five straight games. The last score against UNM via the rush came in the fourth quarter at Air Force. Navy is the 3rd-most productive rushing team in the NCAA in 2004. The Midshipmen are averaging 290 yards a game. Only five times in the past 58 games has New Mexico allowed an opponent to gain 200 yards on the ground.
Picked to finish fourth in the Mountain Western Conference preseason poll, the Lobos landed all alone in second place for the third straight season with a 5-2 mark. The last time New Mexico won five consecutive league games was the last four games of 1982 (at San Diego State, at UTEP, Colorado State, Hawaii) and the first game in 1983 (Utah) when it was a member of the Western Athletic Conference. It's been 52 years since a Lobo team won five straight in one season (at Wyoming, at Denver, Colorado State, Montana, Utah State).
This is the Lobos' ninth bowl appearance since their inaugural showing in the 1939 Sun Bowl in El Paso. UNM is 2-5-1 in bowls and is looking for its first postseason victory since 1961, a 28-12 win over Western Michigan in the one-time-only Aviation Bowl in Dayton, Ohio. New Mexico played in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2002 and 2003, losing to UCLA and Oregon State. The Lobos had a 36-year drought from postseason competition before appearing in the 1997 Insight.com Bowl in Tucson.
The Lobos are the only team in the Mountain West Conference to play in a bowl game each of the past three seasons. UNM has been eligible four straight years, but was not invited in 2001 after finishing 6-5.
A win in the Emerald Bowl would be UNM's 23rd since 2002, the most ever in a three-year span. New Mexico has 22 now as did Lobo teams from 1962-64. A victory would also mean UNM has equaled or surpassed its win total in every season since 1999.
Rocky Long is one win shy of tying Roy Johnson as the school's winningest head coach. Long, who has coached more games than any other Lobo mentor, has a 40-44 record as he completes the seventh season at his alma mater. Johnson was 41-32-6 from 1920-30.
UNM and Long recently agreed on a contract extension good through the 2009 season. A raise of approximately $100,000 per year kicks in Jan. 1, 2005, increasing Long's total package to more than $425,000 annually.
The 2004 Lobos are a young team with only three senior starters on offense and five on defense.
New Mexico has set a school attendance record for the third time in the past four seasons. The average crowd of 37,282 in 2004 breaks last year's mark of 35,127 set.
New Mexico has led the Mountain West Conference in sacks five straight season, collecting 195 dumps since 2000.