Jan. 31, 2005
History made. For the first time in 106 years of New Mexico football, the Lobos played in a third straight bowl game. The appearance against Navy in the Emerald Bowl did not turn out the way UNM had hoped as it fell 34-19, however, it was program's fourth postseason game in the past eight years after qualifying only five times in the first 98 seasons.
New Mexico finished with a 7-5 overall record and the loss to Navy snapped a five-game winning streak, the longest skein under current head coach Rocky Long and the school's best run since Dennis Franchione's 1997 squad began 6-0.
Picked to finish fourth in the 2004 Mountain Western Conference preseason poll, the Lobos landed all alone in second place for the third straight season at 5-2. 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. However, it has been 52 years since a Lobo team won five straight in one season (at Wyoming, at Denver, Colorado State, Montana, Utah State). That came when UNM was a member of the Skyline Conference.
The Lobos have now played in nine bowls since their inaugural showing in the 1939 Sun Bowl in El Paso. UNM is 2-6-1 and has dropped four in a row. The last postseason victory was in 1961, a 28-12 win over Western Michigan in the one-time-only Aviation Bowl in Dayton, Ohio. The Lobos had a 36-year drought from postseason competition before appearing in the 1997 Insight.com Bowl in Tucson. New Mexico played in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2002 and 2003.
New Mexico is the only team in the Mountain West Conference to appear 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.
Rocky Long finished his seventh season one win shy of tying Roy Johnson to become the school's winningest head coach. Long, the only coach to guide New Mexico to three bowl games, has coached more games (85) than any other Lobo mentor. He has a 40-45 record at his alma mater, but is 28-22 since 2001. Johnson was 41-32-6 from 1920-30.
Late last year, UNM and Long agreed on a contract extension good through the 2009 season. A raise of approximately $100,000 per year kicked in Jan. 1, increasing Long's total package to more than $425,000 annually.
QUICK FACTS - The Lobos are one of just three teams to finish in the top-30 in the nation in total defense each of the past five seasons (2000-04). The other two are Oklahoma and Texas. New Mexico finished 25th in the country in total defense, allowing 323.2 yards a game. Oklahoma was 13th at 299.0 and Texas 23rd at 320.1.
New Mexico was the last team to defeat Utah, snatching a 47-35 victory in Salt Lake City on Oct. 18, 2003. The Utes have won 16 straight since.
Better next year? The 2004 Lobos were a young team with only three senior starters on offense and five on defense. A total of 44 lettermen - including 16 starters - are expected to return. That breaks down to eight on offense, six on defense and two specialists.
New Mexico set an attendance record for the third time in the past four seasons, drawing an average crowd of 37,282 for five games in 2004. That breaks the 2003 average of 35,127. UNM also sold a school-record 15,729 season tickets.
The Lobos led the MWC in rushing defense (108.2 ypg), total defense (323.2 ypg), scoring defense (18.7 ppg) and sacks (42) and was 2nd in pass defense efficiency with a rating of 115.4.
New Mexico has led the Mountain West Conference in sacks five straight seasons, collecting 195 dumps since 2000, an average of 39 a year. It has also paced the league in rushing defense four of the past five years, finishing 5th in the nation in 2001 (87.4 ypg) and 2003 (86.1 ypg).
Senior-to-be TB DonTrell Moore ranks No. 2 among active career rushing leaders with 3,675 yards. Memphis' DeAngelo Williams tops the list at 4,062 yards. After 1,091 yards his junior season, Mooore has a shot at becoming just the sixth player in the history of NCAA Div. I-A football to reach 1,000 yards rushing four times in a career: Tony Dorsett (Pittsburgh 1973-76), Amos Lawrence (North Carolina 1977-80), Denvis Manns (New Mexico State 1995-98), Ron Dayne (Wisconsin 1996-99) and Cedric Benson (Texas 2001-04) are the first five. Moore is 2nd all-time at New Mexico trailing Mike Williams (3,862) by 187 yards.
New Mexico finished 2nd in the MWC and tied for 13th nationally with an all-game turnover margin of +0.75 (28 takeaways to 19 giveaways). The margin was even better in seven MWC games at +1.7 (18 to 6) and it was an amazing 15-4 during the five-game winning streak.
The Lobos are 6-1 in their last seven MWC road games, 3-0 in 2003 and 3-1 in 2004. They have also captured eight of their past 10 and are 10-3 in their last 13 away from Albuquerque. Surprisingly, New Mexico is just 4-3 in its past seven MWC games played at University Stadium.
BEST RUN IN 40 YEARS - You have to go back to the early 1960s to find a time when New Mexico football prospered like it currently is under head coach Rocky Long. Actually, some of the numbers are unprecedented.
New Mexico has won at least seven games in three consecutive seasons for the first time in program history.
The 22 wins since 2002 tie for the most in a three-year span. The Lobos also won 22 from 1962-64.
The Lobos have 15 victories in conference play since 2002, the most ever in a three-year period and second only to Utah (16) during the same span.
UNM has produced a minimum of six wins in four straight years for the first time since 1961-64. It has posted four straight non-losing seasons for the first time since 1958-64.
2005 SPRING SCHEDULE - The Lobos are expected to start spring practice on Saturday, March 26. The annual Cherry-Silver Game is tentatively slated for Saturday, April 23.
COACHING DEPARTURE - Running backs coach Curtis Luper will be overseeing the same position at Oklahoma State, the school he signed with out of high school in 1984. Luper was at UNM for three seasons (2002-04).
POSTSEASON HONORS - Senior CB Brandon Payne was named a second team All-American by the prestigious Walter Camp Football Foundation. Payne joins Brian Urlacher (1998-99) as the only two defensive backs to earn All-America recognition.
New Mexico had eight players named to the 2004 all-Mountain West Conference first or second team, while four others earned honorable mention. Six Lobos were first team all-conference selections, matching Utah for the most in the league. Junior TB DonTrell Moore and senior OT Claude Terrell were both unanimous first team selections.
A unanimous choice for the third straight year, Moore joins WR Terance Mathis (1986-87, `89), LB Johnny Jackson (1982-84), DE Jimmie Carter (1980-83), TB Mike Williams (1976-78) and C Larry White (1952-54) as the only three-time first team all-conference honorees in UNM history.
Junior C Ryan Cook joined Moore and Terrell as a repeat first team offense selection. Payne, junior NT Marcus Parker and senior LB Nick Speegle all were named to the first team defense for the first time in their careers. The six first team selections equal the second-most in program history. Only the 2003 team was more highly decorated with seven first team honorees.
Senior S Josh Bazinet, a former walk-on, was honored for the first time in his career with a spot on the second team defense, while junior CB Gabriel Fulbright was a repeat second team selection. Senior LB Fola Fashola, who was second in the MWC in both tackles for loss and sacks, headlined the honorable mention selections. Junior WR Hank Baskett, sophomore OG Robert Turner and senior K Wes Zunker were also honorable mention choices.
UNM defensive end Michael Tuohy (two-ee) was named second team Freshman All-America by College Football News and third team Freshman All-America by The Sporting News. Tuohy, a redshirt freshman, ranked among the top-10 in the Mountain West Conference with 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks in 11 games, including four starts. He also tallied 28 tackles, two forced fumbles, seven quarterback hurries and a pass deflection. In back-to-back UNM road wins at Colorado State and BYU, Tuohy recorded five sacks, six tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He is the second Lobo defensive linemen to earn freshman All-America honors, joining Buddy Billingsley who was a second team pick by Football News in 1993.
New Mexico has had at least one Freshman All-American for four straight years. Offensive guard Robert Turner was named to the Football Writers Association of America All-Freshman Team in 2003, while punter Tyler Gaus was a third team selection by The Sporting News in 2002. Offensive lineman Claude Terrell and linebacker Nick Speegle were both honored in 2001. Terrell was named to the FWAA All-Freshman Team, while Speegle was a third team choice by The Sporting News.
UNM HISTORY - The University of New Mexico has a 424-487-31 overall record through 106 seasons. The school was founded in 1889. Three years later, the first football game was played on Oct. 7, 1892, when a team representing UNM played a squad from Albuquerque High School in a vacant lot north of the town's ice factory. The preps prevailed 5-0. The territory of New Mexico was not granted statehood until 1912.
SLOW STARTS, FAST FINISHES - That's been the story of Lobo football the past few seasons. As the leaves start to fall, so do the opponents. A look at UNM's record:
Year Start Finish (Regular Season Only)
2000 0-3 5-4
2001 2-4 4-1
2002 2-4 / 3-5 5-2 / 4-1
2003 1-3 7-1
2004 2-4 5-0
2004 LOBO REVIEW - The following was written by Alfredo V. Moreno, UNM assistant director for media relations:
The 2004 season was supposed to be the year Rocky Long's resurgent football program at the University of New Mexico returned to mediocrity. After losing 25 lettermen and 14 starters from last year's 8-5 team, many pundits predicted the Lobos' run of bowl appearances and winning records was over. After all, with five bowl teams, including three from BCS conferences, waiting on what many called the toughest schedule in school history, there was little chance for New Mexico to maintain its success.
Underestimated, cast off and ignored - Long's Lobos found themselves in a situation they knew all too well. And just as they had done in year's past, the UNM football family drew closer and went to work proving just how far heart, effort and determination could take a team.
New Mexico opened the season with a heartbreaking 21-17 loss to Washington State, but the Lobos' performance opened some eyes and had the community buzzing the following week when Texas Tech strutted into University Stadium. The Red Raiders Big XII budget and talent had stymied UNM for the past 20 years, but this time they found an angry and determined Lobo squad eagerly awaiting its opportunity at redemption.
New Mexico's tenacious defense limited Tech to just three points after halftime, allowing sophomore quarterback Kole McKamey to march the team down the field in the waning minutes with the game tied at 24. Senior Wes Zunker waited as Texas Tech called back-to-back timeouts, then stepped up and calmly booted a 43-yard field goal through the uprights as time expired to send the nearly 39,000 fans into a frenzy and the Red Raiders home in disbelief.
Following a 17-7 setback in a frigid downpour at Oregon State, New Mexico took out its frustration with a 38-3 trouncing of rival New Mexico State, the Lobos' largest win in Las Cruces since 1905. The victory came at a price, however, as star tailback DonTrell Moore suffered a strained MCL in his left knee after being hit low and early while waiting to field a third quarter punt. With Moore on the sidelines, the short-handed Lobos fell at home to 14th-ranked and undefeated Utah 28-7, despite another game effort by the UNM defense.
The road got no easier for New Mexico as it traveled to Colorado Springs the following week to take on the surprising Air Force Falcons with McKamey resting at home in Albuquerque after suffering his second concussion. Moore returned and gave an admirable effort, running at half speed, while the Lobo defense and special teams nearly helped UNM complete a remarkable comeback. It wasn't enough in the end, however, as the Falcons escaped with a 28-23 victory, leaving UNM 2-4 on the year and 0-2 in MWC play.
With the season seemingly slipping away, the Lobos found themselves on the road in Las Vegas against a surging UNLV squad. Down 17-10 at halftime, New Mexico got a big spark from two unlikely sources. Freshman wide receiver Marcus Smith raced down the sideline for a 65-yard touchdown run and junior Anthony Carter hauled in a 34-yard TD reception, his only score of the year, as the Lobos outscored the Rebels 14-3 in the second half. Meanwhile, the UNM defense forced six turnovers to secure a 24-20 victory and light the fuse for New Mexico's late-season explosion.
The next week, New Mexico's defense dominated San Diego State from start to finish, fueling the Lobos' 19-9 triumph at University Stadium. Back on the road a week later, Moore rushed for 154 yards and Zunker kicked four field goals as UNM won in Fort Collins for the first time in nine years, defeating Colorado State 26-17.
Following a well-deserved bye week, UNM kept its impressive streak alive, stunning red-hot BYU 21-14, in LaVell Edwards Stadium to win its fourth straight. The Lobos won back-to-back games in Provo for the first time in school history behind another spectacular performance by the defense, which notched seven sacks, forced three more turnovers and limited the Cougars to 58 yards rushing.
The Lobos returned home the next week, wearing down bowl-bound Wyoming 16-9, to finish the regular season an impressive 7-4 and alone in second place (5-2) in the Mountain West Conference for the third year in a row. McKamey and Moore combined for 302 rushing yards while the league's premier defense sacked Cowboy quarterbacks eight times as New Mexico extended its longest winning streak under Rocky Long to five games.
On Dec. 30, 2004, the University of New Mexico made its third straight bowl appearance for the first time in school history when it faced the U.S. Naval Academy in the Emerald Bowl. With four straight non-losing seasons and 22 wins in the past three years to its credit, Rocky Long's UNM football program has established itself among the best in the country.
What the Lobo football team was able to accomplish in 2004 will be remembered for a long time in the state of New Mexico. A group that was never expected to be much of a factor in the regular season, let alone the postseason, refused to yield in the face of doubt and adversity, and showed what being a real winning football program is all about.