September 22, 2003
The New Mexico Lobos return home Saturday, meeting in-state rival New Mexico State. Kickoff for the 94th meeting between the two institutions is 6:05 p.m. Mountain Time from University Stadium. There is no television coverage for the game. A crowd in excess of 33,000 is expected to be on hand to watch the nation's 35th-oldest series in NCAA Div. I-A football.
For the fourth time in the past five seasons, New Mexico has started 1-3. UNM dropped a hard-fought 23-13 decision at 24th-ranked Washington State last Saturday. New Mexico led 13-12 at halftime. The Lobos have lost three straight for the first time since starting 0-3 in 2000. New Mexico has not lost four in a row since the final four games of the 1998 season. The Lobos are now 2-9 in the month of September since 2001.
New Mexico State comes into the contest with a 1-2 mark. The Aggies - off last week - last played on September 13 when they fell at Oregon State 28-16.
The Lobos are 9-3 in their last 12 contests at University Stadium. UNM has captured six of its last seven home games against non-conference competition. New Mexico was 3-0 at home last year against MWC opposition and it has won six of its past eight league games in Albuquerque.
Picked to finish second in the MWC in the preseason poll, UNM returns 53 lettermen - including 17 offensive and defensive starters - from a team that finished second in the MWC last year and played in a bowl game for only the second time since 1961.
New Mexico was picked to finish second in the official Mountain West Conference preseason poll. That's the highest predicted finish for a Lobo team since polls could be found dating to the early 1980s. Six Lobos were named to the 2003 preseason all-MWC team: OT Jason Lenzmeier, TB DonTrell Moore and OG Claude Terrell on offense and DE Daniel Kegler, S Brandon Ratcliff and NT D.J. Renteria on defense.
The Lobos received nine votes in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 preseason coaches' poll, good for a tie for 47th place with Georgia Tech. They had 13 votes prior to the Texas Tech game. UNM's Rocky Long is one of 63 NCAA Div. I-A head coaches who votes in the poll.
For only the second time in the history of University Stadium, the Lobos will play seven home games in 2003. UNM also played seven here in 1995.
Going 13-12 in 2001-02, New Mexico guns for its third straight non-losing record for the first time since a seven-year run from 1958-64. After playing in the Las Vegas Bowl last year, UNM seeks consecutive postseason appearances for only the second time in school history, since appearing in the 1945 Sun Bowl and the 1946 Harbor Bowl. The most wins by New Mexico in a three-year period is 22 between 1962-64.
New Mexico has the distinction of being the only school in the nation to increase its win total every year since 1999: UNM was 3-9 in 1998, 4-7 in 1999, 5-7 in 2000, 6-5 in 2001 and 7-7 in 2002.
SEASON TICKET UPDATE: Through Friday, Sept. 19, UNM had sold a school-record 14,780 season tickets. Last year's total was 14,142 while the previous record was 14,254 set in 1998. A five-game prorated season ticket is currently available through the New Mexico State game on Saturday.
LOBOS WORTH WATCHING: Several Lobos are currently on "Watch Lists" for national awards:
Rimington Trophy - Outstanding Center (www.rimingtontrophy.com): C Ryan Cook
Doak Walker Award - Outstanding Running Back (www.doakwalkeraward.com): TB DonTrell Moore
Butkus Award - Best Linebacker (www.butkusaward.org): LB Billy Strother
Outland Trophy - Outstanding Interior Lineman (www.fwaa.com): OG Claude Terrell
THE NEW MEXICO STATE SERIES: UNM's oldest series - 93 previous games - dates to 1893. In fact, the two institutions played six games - between 1893-1911 - before the territory of New Mexico joined the Union in 1912.
The 93 games makes UNM-NMSU the 35th-longest series in the NCAA record book. Wisconsin-Minnesota is the all-time leader at 112 games.
The Lobos have a 60-28-5 lead in the series, although the Aggies have won three of the past five games. New Mexico has dominated since 1969, however, winning 27 of 34 meetings with one tie. UNM owns a 36-12-3 advantage in Albuquerque, including a 15-2-1 mark in the last 18 games at University Stadium.
The Aggies took a 24-13 triumph last year in Las Cruces. Aggie QB Paul Dombroski rushed 18 times for 136 yards and a TD. Two years ago in Albuquerque UNM won 53-0, posting its first shutout since 1984, a span of 208 games. It's the Lobos' widest winning margin over NMSU since a 61-0 blanking in 1948. New Mexico had a season-high 350 yards rushing. The Aggies were held to 79 yards on the ground.
AGGIE NOTES: New Mexico State finished 7-5 in 2002, the school's second winning record in the past four years. The Aggies were secong in the Sun Belt Conference with a 5-1 mark.
NMSU returns 40 lettermen, including 14 starters, six on offense and seven on defense. Head coach Tony Samuel is in his seventh season in Las Cruces where he has a 27-44 overall record. The 1979 Nebraska graduate is 3-3 against the Lobos, 1-2 in Albuquerque.
The New Mexico State defense has been solid through three games, allowing just 338.7 yards a game, good for 2nd in the Sun Belt and 49th nationally. The Aggies rank 38th in the nation in pass defense, yielding 189.7 yards a game. Offensively, NMSU is averaging 23.7 points and 316.3 yards a game, 194.3 yards on the ground and 122 yards through the air.
WASHINGTON STATE RECAP: The 24th-ranked Cougars held the Lobos to 78 yards in the second half as they came back to defeat UNM 23-13. New Mexico took a 13-12 lead into halftime on a pair of TD passes.
The New Mexico defense played superb around the goal-line to keep it close in the first half. Three times the Cougars had a 1st-and-goal inside the Lobo five, but could only manage three field goals and a 9-0 lead three minutes into the second quarter.
UNM got on the board on its next drive when WR Terrence Thomas (Albuquerque) took a handoff from QB Casey Kelly (Portland, Ore.), then tossed the ball back to Kelly for a 21-yard scoring pass. The score was set up by a 38-yard wide receiver screen from Kelly to Adrian Boyd (Flint, Mich.). Wes Zunker's PAT was blocked.
After a tipped punt, UNM took over at the 46. Two plays later, Kelly arched a perfect 50-yard bomb down the sideline to WR Dwight Counter (Lancaster, Texas) as UNM grabbed a 13-9 advantage. The Cougars added another field goal to close the halftime margin to one.
The speedy Washington State defense shut down UNM in the second half. The Lobos went three-and-out on their first three possesions of the third quarter, gaining just seven yards in those nine plays. New Mexico only crossed the 50-yard line once after halftime. On that drive, the Lobos marched to the WSU 40, but TB D.D. Cox (Westminster, Colo.) fumbled to end the drive.
The Cougars took the lead with a 53-yard drive in the third quarter. QB Matt Kegel completed a 32-yard pass to TE Cody Boyd then found WR Devard Darling for 15 yards on 3rd-and-15 down to the Lobo 1. Kegel punched it from one yard out. The Cougars added a field goal later in the period to close the scoring.
New Mexico finished with a season-low 257 yards of total offense.
NOTES FROM WASHINGTON STATE: New Mexico has lost eight straight games to ranked opponents since its last win over No. 8 Utah in 1994. The Lobos do not have a victory over a ranked team on the road since 1975.
Washington State was 5-5 on red-zone conversions, but got just one TD and four FGs. On three of the first-half penetrations, WSU had first-and-goal at the 1, 5 and 3-yard line, but had to settle for three points each time.
The Lobos had the ball for just 21:10, the team's lowest amount of possession time since Fresno State limited UNM to 20:53 in 1993. Washington State ran 86 plays from scrimmage to UNM's 56.
New Mexico's 22 yards rushing is the lowest total since BYU held the Lobos to a minus-10 in 1999.
UNM had a season-high 5 sacks of QB Matt Kegel, who had been dumped just three times in three prior games against Idaho, Notre Dame and Colorado.
Senior LB Billy Strother (Evansville, Ind.) recorded a career-high 15 tackles after getting just 20 in the first three games. His total included 3 tackles for loss and a sack.
Sophomore DE Marcus Parker (Garland, Texas) came off the bench to have a career day with 8 tackles, including 4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and a forced fumble. Twelve of Parker's 22 career tackles have been behind the line of scrimmage.
Senior WR Adrian Boyd (Flint, Mich.) recorded career-highs with 8 receptions for 100 yards. He's the first UNM receiver to gain at least 100 yards since Dwight Counter had 100 last year against Utah. Boyd leads UNM with 18 catches and 254 yards receiving.
Senior DE D.J. Renteria (Roswell, N.M.) logged a career-high 8 tackles. The honors candidate had 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a pass deflection.
New Mexico failed to gain a turnover for the second straight game and for only the 11th time in Rocky Long's 64-game tenure at UNM. The Lobos are 1-10 in those games, the lone win coming against Northern Arizona in 1999. BYU has been error-free against Long's Lobos three times (1999, 2001, 2003).
It's been five years since UNM failed to get a turnover in consecutive games. San Jose State and Air Force were both free of errors in 1998.
Senior Dwight Counter only caught two passes at Washington State, but one was a 50-yard TD from Casey Kelly. It was the 10th TD grab of Counter's career. The average length of those TD receptions is an amazing 39.7 yards. Counter is now 7th all-time at UNM with 99 catches and 8th with 1,536 career yards.
OFFENSE NOTES: No doubt the opponents have had something to do with it, but UNM's offense has cooled after a hot start. The Lobos averaged 50 points, 267 yards rushing, 303 yards passing and 570 yards of total offense in the first two games against Texas State-San Marcos and Texas Tech. In the last two games versus BYU and Washington State, New Mexico is averaging 10 points and 284.5 yards of total offense, 96.5 on the ground and 188 passing. BYU ranks 6th nationally in total defense this week, while Washington State is No. 36.
The Lobos have committed six turnovers (3 turnovers, 3 fumbles) the past three games (four at Texas Tech) and all were lost on the opponents' side of the field.
Casey Kelly is now 12-11 as a starter at New Mexico, which ties Graham Leigh for No. 6 on the career wins list. Current UNM head coach Rocky Long is the all-time leader with 16 victories from 1969-71. Kelly ranks 4th at UNM with 4,332 yards passing, 4th in career completions (349), 5th in TD passes (27) and 6th in career completion percentage (53.0%).
Kelly threw for a career-high 349 yards at Texas Tech, the most by a Lobo since Graham Leigh tossed for 359 yards against San Diego State in 1998. Kelly also set career-bests for completions (22) and attempts (42).
Sophomore TB DonTrell Moore (Roswell, N.M.) became the sixth Lobo to score at least four rushing TDs in a single game against Texas State. Reginal Johnson tallied five against Tulsa in 1996. Four other Lobos scored four via the run, including Long against Utah in 1971.
Subbing for the injured Moore, D.D. Cox had a memorable evening at Texas Tech. Although his first carry did not come until midway through the second quarter, Cox finished with the 11th-best rushing day in school history: 187 yards on 27 carries and three TDs. He was a real workhorse after halftime, toting it 19 times for 140 yards and getting all of his scores. Cox was also a receiver, hauling in four receptions for 69 yards. His 256 all-purpose yards is the 9th-best single-game total by a Lobo.
UNM totaled 584 yards of offense against Texas Tech, the most since registering 620 yards versus Air Force in 2001. The Lobos had 556 yards against Texas State-San Marcos, giving them back-to-back 500-yard performances for the first time since the 1994 season. The 1,140 yards the first two contests are the most in consecutive games since 1,149 yards against New Mexico State (584) and Fresno State (565) in '94.
Dwight Counter's 40-yard run in the first quarter against Texas State was a career long. He finished with a career-high 192 all-purpose yards (40 rushing, 65 on punt returns, 87 receiving).
OFFENSIVE LINE CHANGING FACES: The season began with three seniors starting on the offensive line: OTs Jason Lenzmeier (Frisco, Texas) and Justin Colburn (Westminster, Colo.) and OG Calvin McDonald (Leavenworth, Kan.). Four games into the season and, due to injuries, only Colburn has started every game.
McDonald suffered a torn MCL on Aug. 20 and played in his first game of the season at Washington State. Lenzmeier also had a torn MCL in the second quarter against BYU. He could be back by the San Diego State game on Oct. 18.
Of the five projected starters entering the season, only two are in their original slots right now, Colburn and C Ryan Cook (Albuquerque).
DEFENSE NOTES: The Lobos have allowed just two rushing TD through the first four games. New Mexico has at least one sack in 17 straight games. The last sack-free game was last year's season opener at North Carolina State. UNM is tied with Colorado State for the MWC lead with 13 sacks. The Lobos led the league every year from 2000-02.
New Mexico also leads the MWC in rushing defense, allowing 80 yards a game.
Through four games this year against predominantly passing teams, UNM is allowing 20.8 points, 80 yards rushing, 314.2 yards passing and 394.2 yards total.
Last year, New Mexico was yielding 24 points, 125.5 yards rushing, 195 yards passing and 321.0 total yards in games against North Carolina State, Weber State, Air Force and Baylor.
WORDS FROM ROCKY: (on Washington State) -- "I really felt that it was going to be a nail-biter until the end. We came out in the second half and couldn't do much on offense. Washington State's defense is very good and very fast. You have to give them a lot of credit. They found a way to win. That's what good teams do."
(on New Mexico State) -- "This has developed into a very good rivalry game, especially in the past few years. It's a series the way it should be; very competitive with a lot of people having a great deal of interest in the outcome. We do not lack confidence right now. We just lack execution. The better we execute, the better we have a chance to win. We shouldn't have any trouble getting ready for a New Mexico State team that will be well rested. I know they'll be ready. They played very well against Oregon State. They will cause us some problems because they present so many different offensive looks. Their defense is improved from last year as well. It should be another competitive game."