Nov. 10, 2003
The New Mexico Lobos pull down the curtain on their 2003 home season Saturday as the Air Force Falcons come to town. Kickoff is 1:05 p.m. Mountain Time from University Stadium in Albuquerque. There is no television coverage for a game featuring two teams tied for second place in the Mountain West Conference standings.
The Lobos are 6-4 overall and 3-2 in the MWC after nipping Colorado State 37-34 last Friday. Wes Zunker's (New Braunfels, Texas) 33-yard FG as time expired was the difference. Demonstrating a dazzling array of power, speed and agility, sophomore TB DonTrell Moore (Roswell, N.M.) rushed for 242 yards - the second-best day in school history - and three TDs, while setting a bevy of season records along the way. The Falcons ripped winless Army 31-3 to improve to 7-3 on the season. Air Force is also 3-2 in league play. AFA started 5-0, but is 2-3 since.
New Mexico needs to win one game to become bowl eligible. The Lobos will clinch a bowl berth if they win both of their remaining games because they would finish no lower than second place in the MWC standings. Air Force has already achieved bowl eligibility status. UNM ends the regular season next week at Wyoming. The Falcons will be at San Diego State. Amazingly, all eight MWC schools could be bowl eligible at season's end.
League-leader Utah, idle last week, leads the MWC race at 4-1 and hosts Wyoming Saturday. The Utes finish Nov. 22 at BYU.
After starting 1-3, the Lobos are 5-1 since, including the school's first four-game winning streak since a 6-0 start in 1997. New Mexico completed its first unbeaten October (3-0) since the 1959 team went 5-0.
The triumph over Colorado State guaranteed New Mexico of having its third straight non-losing season for the first time since a seven-year run from 1958-64. The Lobos are 19-16 since 2001.
Saturday's game matches one of the nation's top rushing defenses against one of college football's top running attacks. The Lobos are 4th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing just 78.4 yards a game. The Falcons rank No. 3 nationally in rushing offense, averaging 301.8 yards a game. UNM has allowed less than 100 yards rushing nine times in its past 12 games dating to last year. The Lobos have held their last five opponents to 358 yards on the ground, an average of 71.6 yards a game.
New Mexico ranks 1st in the conference in scoring offense (32.7 ppg) and is 2nd in total offense (430.3 ypg). Air Force is 2nd in the MWC in scoring defense (19.4 ppg), but ranks 7th in rushing defense (162.1 ypg). The Lobos' offensive balance is exemplary with averages of 211.4 yards rushing and 218.9 yards passing. UNM threw for 429 yards against UNLV, then came back with 319 yards rushing against Colorado State.
DonTrell Moore needs 144 yards to break the UNM single-season rushing record of 1,240 yards set by Mike Williams in 1976. Moore has run for 1,097 yards and has already established New Mexico season records for rushing TDs (17), overall TDs scored (18), points (108) and 100-yard rushing games (7). He ranks sixth all-time at UNM with 2,231 career yards on the ground. Moore is 1st in the MWC in rushing (109.7 ypg), all-purpose yards (126.9 ypg) and scoring (10.8 ppg), and has scored more TDs (18) than any other NCAA Div. I-A player this season.
For the first time in school history, the Lobos have scored 30 or more points in five straight games. They have averaged 37 points over that span and are scoring 34.8 ppg in six homes contests.
Another attendance record is certain to fall Saturday. UNM needs just 6,117 fans to establish a season mark for average attendance. The current record is 31,268 set in 2001. The Lobos are averaging 35,126 after six home games. The record for total attendance was obliterated in last week's game against Colorado State as a crowd of 37,133 passed through the turnstiles. New Mexico has surpassed 200,000 fans for the first time ever. The total is 210,759 heading into Saturday's game. The previous record for total attendance was 187,608 for six games in 2001.
A victory Saturday would move senior QB Casey Kelly (Portland, Ore.) into a tie for the No. 1 spot on the school's all-time win list. Jim Cromartie went 18-6 from 1960-62. Kelly, 17-12 as a starter at UNM, moved past his head coach, Rocky Long, and Stan Quintana in last week's win over CSU. Long was 16-10-2 from 1969-71.
SENIORS SAY GOODBYE
One of the largest senior classes in school history will make its last appearance at University Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The 24 seniors will be recognized individually prior to kickoff. Thirteen of the two dozen student-athletes came to UNM in 1999, either on scholarship or as walk-ons. It's quite a cross-section of hometowns as 13 states are represented.
THE AIR FORCE SERIES
This is the 21st meeting in a series that started in 1957. Air Force leads 12-8 overall, but UNM has a 3-1 edge in MWC games. The Falcons lead 6-5 in Albuquerque, however the Lobos have won the past two. New Mexico has never taken three straight in the Duke City.
The Lobos' three-game series winning streak was snapped last year as the Falcons took a 38-31 overtime victory at the Academy. Two years ago in Albuquerque, UNM erupted for 32 first downs and 620 yards in a 52-33 victory. The Falcons led by 10 points on four occasions, the last time 27-17 in the second quarter. New Mexico held Air Force to 112 yards rushing, 65 of those coming on the Falcons' first play.
The teams' statistical averages the past four games: Rushing: UNM 202 ypg, Air Force 200.3; Total Offense: UNM 461.0 ypg, Air Force 339.8; Time of Possession: UNM 35:45, Air Force 24:15.
COLORADO STATE RECAP
Wes Zunker kicked a 33-yard FG as time expired to give the Lobos a harrowing 37-34 victory over Colorado State. The game-winner came just seconds after Rams' QB Bradlee Van Pelt misplayed a shotgun snap, which was recovered by UNM NT Kyle Coulter (Bixby, Okla.) at the CSU 16. Zunker's third field goal of the game was true, giving New Mexico its first win over the Rams since 1995 and first victory in Albuquerque since 1988.
The compelling game televised nationally on ESPN2 featured two of the top offensive players in the Mountain West. Lobo sophomore TB DonTrell Moore rushed 34 times for 242 yards and 3 TDs while Van Pelt accounted for 300 of CSU's 328 yards of total offense. He also led the Rams back from a 31-14 third-quarter deficit to tie the game at 34 apiece on a 1-yard run with 3:07 left in the game.
After Colorado State tied the game, the Lobos picked up one first down before having to punt from their own 31. The Rams took over at their own 31 with 1:02 remaining. The snap to Van Pelt was slightly high and to his right, but the classy competitor took complete responsibility for the error that set up UNM's winning score.
POSTGAME NOTES FROM COLORADO STATE
UNM had not beaten CSU in four tries since the two schools joined the MWC in 1999. The last New Mexico win over the Rams was 22-14 on October 21, 1995, in Fort Collins.
The Lobos ended a 5-game losing streak to CSU in Albuquerque. The last win had been in 1988 and also ended on the last play of game when the Lobos scored on a TD pass from Jeremy Leach to Tony Jones.
New Mexico held the Rams to 328 yards of total offense. CSU came into the game leading the MWC at 474.4 yards a game.
UNM extended its streak to 23 consecutive games with at least one sack. The Lobos dropped Van Pelt four times after dumping him just twice in the past two meetings (once each in 2001 and 2002). Van Pelt had been sacked just 12 times in his first nine games of the season.
DonTrell Moore finished with a career-high 242 yards on a career-high 34 carries. UNM rushed for 319 yards as a team. The yardage total is the most by an MWC back this season and ranks No. 3 all-time in conference history. Only Quincy Wright's 265 yards last year against Weber State is better in the UNM record book. Moore has gained 423 yards and scored four TDs in two career games against Colorado State. In six career November games, Moore has carried 157 times for 893 yards and 11 TDs, an average of 148.8 yards a game.
Wes Zunker kicked three field goals, including a 33-yard game-winner, to extend his streak to 13 straight converted. He is 13-14 on the season, his only miss hitting the upright at Texas Tech. The school record for consecutive FGs made is 16 by Vladimir Borombozin over two seasons (2000-01). Zunker's conversion rate of 92.9% is best in the MWC.
Junior LB Nick Speegle (Albuquerque) recorded his first sack of the season, while senior DE Daniel Kegler (Frostproof, Fla.) notched his MWC-leading sixth of the year. Reserve LB Shannon Kincaid (Albuquerque) recorded his first sack since September 30, 2000, against Wyoming. S Sidney Wiley (Hazelhurst, Miss.) led UNM with a career-high-tying 8 tackles, including 2.5 stops behind the line.
Casey Kelly moved into 2nd place all alone with his 17th victory as the starting QB of the Lobos. Kelly improves to 17-12 in his career and trails Jim Cromartie by one game. Kelly rushed 10 times for 74 yards, including a career-long 52-yard scamper that set up UNM's first TD, and was an efficient 8 of 12 throwing for 106 yards and one TD.
Senior WR Dwight Counter (Lancaster, Texas) caught 3 passes for 55 yards, including a 41-yard TD catch. Ten of his 13 career TD receptions have been from 25-yards or more.
Junior OG Claude Terrell (LaMarque, Texas) had his best performance of the season, earning a 98% assignment grade, a team-best 89% technical grade and a team-high 13 knockdown blocks.
New Mexico didn't turnover the ball for the first time in 23 games. The last game without a miscue was against Weber State on August 31, 2002. The Rams lost two fumbles. UNM is now a perfect 5-0 this season when it has fewer turnovers than the opposition, 1-4 with more.
MOORE ERASING THE MARKS
DonTrell Moore needs 144 yards to break the UNM single-season rushing record of 1,240 yards set by Mike Williams in 1976. Moore has run for 1,097 yards and has already established New Mexico season records for rushing TDs (17), overall TDs scored (18), points (108) and 100-yard rushing games (7). Moore is 1st in the MWC in rushing (109.7 ypg), all-purpose yards (126.9 ypg) and scoring (10.8 ppg). He ranks sixth all-time at UNM with 2,231 career yards on the ground.
Moore has scored more TDs (18) than any other NCAA Div. I-A player this season. He is tied with Ole Miss K Jonathan Nichols for third in NCAA scoring average (10.8 ppg), but Moore is the top running back at getting into the end zone. Pittsburgh WR Larry Fitzgerald is 1st in scoring average at 11.3 ppg followed by Oklahoma K Trey DiCarlo (10.9 ppg).
Moore has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in eight of his last nine home games, including seven straight, and 11 times overall in his career. Moore is the second Lobo to record consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Williams did it three straight from 1976-78.
WORDS FROM ROCKY
(on Colorado State) -- "I thought having (senior OL) Justin (Colburn) out would have hindered our performance, but obviously it didn't and I thought that's the best DonTrell has run with the football. Not only was he finding holes, but he was also running hard and breaking tackles. I thought the combination of the offensive line blocking very well and DonTrell running better that he has, they had a great night on offense."
(On getting the first win over CSU in MWC play) -- "It's a great victory for our team. We are a football team that keeps hearing that we can't do things, but somehow we do things nobody expects us to do. That was just a bunch of guys hanging in there even though things looked terrible. At the end we couldn't protect the lead and their quarterback was making great plays, especially on fourth down. This win was a great win, but it was no more important than beating San Diego State or Utah, and it's not going to be any more important than when we play Air Force next week."
(On Air Force) -- "It's a heckuva shift in preparation from Colorado State to Air Force. The one extra day will help the coaches' planning somewhat, but I'm not sure it affects the players that much. Both teams certainly have a lot to play for, but there are eight coaches in the league that are saying the same thing. It's amazing that every team in the league could become bowl eligible. That can't be possible in any other major conference. Air Force seems to be running more formations this year than anytime in the past. Chance Harridge is as valuable to his team as (Bradlee) Van Pelt is to Colorado State. The whole offense revolves around him. How well they play on offense usually depends on how well he plays and he's done very well in his career. We can't guess who's got the football on defense. Angles are very important this week. We have to be more disciplined (on defense) than we were last week. Offensively, we are playing about as well as any time since we started here, and we have been effective running or passing. That has to be hard to prepare for. Turnovers and special teams play - which we have not been very good as of late - will be key again."