Aug. 30, 2004
The 106th season of New Mexico football gets underway this Friday when the Lobos host Washington State. ESPN will televise the game live from University Stadium, marking the first time UNM begins a season playing on national television. Kickoff is 6:03 p.m. Mountain Time. A sellout crowd in excess of 37,000 is expected. New Mexico has two national television appearances on the docket before the season started, a first for the program. UNM and Utah - the top-two finishers in the 2003 MWC race - meet Friday, Oct. 1, at University Stadium on ESPN2. New Mexico has never won a game on ESPN, going 0-4 since the first appearance against BYU in 1984. The other showings were in UNM's last three bowl games: the 1997 Insight.com Bowl against Arizona, 2002 Las Vegas Bowl to UCLA and 2003 Las Vegas Bowl versus Oregon State. The Lobos are 4-2 on ESPN2 and 3-6 on ESPN Regional telecasts. New Mexico was 8-5 last year, increasing its win total for the fifth consecutive season, a feat no other team in the country can claim. The Lobos lost to Oregon State in the Las Vegas Bowl, 55-14. UNM finished 2nd in the Mountain West at 5-2 and handed league champ Utah its only conference loss. Washington State finished 10-3 overall and defeated Texas 28-20 in the Holiday Bowl. The Cougars finished 2nd in the Pac-10 at 6-2. The Lobos return 40 lettermen, 18 on offense, 18 on defense and four kickers. Gone are 14 starters, including eight performers who garnered first- or second-team all-conference honors a year ago. Six of the eight were on defense, including three defensive linemen. Also departed is Casey Kelly, the winningest quarterback in school history. Playing in the Las Vegas Bowl in 2002 and `03, New Mexico has made consecutive bowl appearances for only the second time in school history, the first occurence being after the 1945 and `46 seasons. UNM is 2-5-1 in bowls and has lost three straight. The last win was in 1961, a 28-12 decision over Western Michigan in the one-time-only Aviation Bowl in Dayton, Ohio. The Lobos had a 36-year postseason drought before the 1997 Insight.com Bowl. The Lobos have never played in three straight bowl games, although they have been bowl eligible for three consecutive years. UNM was 6-5 in 2001, but was not selected. GAME SPONORS / PROMOTIONS / SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS Game sponsors include The New Mexico Lottery, Comcast, 610 AM The Sports Animal and 770 KKOB. The first 20,000 fans will receive Howl Towels courtesy of The New Mexico Lottery. The 2004 national champion University of New Mexico ski team will be recognized between the 1st and 2nd quarter. It's the first national title for a Lobo sports team. EVERY GAME ON TV All 11 regular-season games are expected to be televised this season. The Lobos have the two ESPN-affiliated telecasts with the remainder of games being shown either live or delayed by KRQE-TV in Albuquerque. KRQE will air Texas Tech on a delayed basis unless UNM authorizes a live telecast. Due to Pac-10 rules, the Oregon State from Corvallis cannot be shown live. It will be seen at 5 p.m. Mountain Time on Sept. 18. New Mexico State will be live on Sept. 25, while the remaining MWC games should all be seen live on KRQE through ESPN+Plus or SportsWest. UNM HISTORY The University of New Mexico has a 417-482-31 overall record through 105 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. LONG APPROACHING RECORD FOR GAMES COACHED Head coach Rocky Long begins his seventh season at his alma mater. Long is tied with Dennis Franchione for third place on the school's all-time win list. Long is 33-40 after six seasons. Franchione went 33-36 from 1992-97. Johnson is the all-time victory leader at 41-32-6 from 1920-30, followed by Weeks, who was 40-41-1 from 1960-67. In terms of number of seasons and including the 2004 campaign, only Roy Johnson (11) and Bill Weeks (8) were at UNM longer than Long. However, with 73 games spent on the sidelines, Long will become the school's career leader in games coached when the Lobos visit BYU on Nov. 13. That will be Long's 83rd game at UNM, surpassing Weeks' total of 82 from 1960-67. UNM VS. WASHINGTON STATE / PAC-10 The Lobos and Cougars meet for the second time. No. 24 WSU took a 23-13 victory last year in Pullman, although UNM had a 13-12 lead at the half. Drew Dunning kicked a school-record five FGs in the Cougar win. UNM was held to 257 total yards, including 22 rushing with TBs DonTrell Moore and D.D. Cox slowed by sore ankles. New Mexico has a 24-69-2 record against current members of the Pac-10 and has lost seven straight to its western neighbors, including the past two years in the Las Vegas Bowl to UCLA and Oregon State. The last win came against OSU in Albuquerque in 1979. MORE ON WASHINGTON STATE The Cougars finished 10-3 last year, including a 28-20 victory over Texas in the Holiday Bowl...WSU finished second in the Pac-10 at 6-2 Head coach Bill Doba (Ball State `62) is in his second season in Pullman where he welcomes 48 returning letterman...WSU did lose 17 starters from last year's team, seven on offense, nine on defense and one kicker...the only two defensive starters back are junior LB and All-America candidate Will Derting and senior CB Karl Paymah Derting recorded 86 total tackles, including 12 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks in 2003 on his way to 1st team all-Pac-10 honors...junior TE Troy Bienemann caught 29 passes for 273 yards and a pair of TDs LOBOS FROM WASHINGTON New Mexico has a pair of Washington state natives on the team and both are from Prosser: senior QB Tali Ena and walk-on WR Justin Walker, a junior college transfer. Walker is Prosser Class of 1999, Ena 2000. UNM OPENERS The Lobos have a 62-40-3 (.605) mark in season openers and they are 6-3 in their last nine. UNM is 70-31-4 (.686) in home openers, including 7-2 in its past nine. New Mexico is 26-18 in openers at University Stadium. The first game on Sept. 17, 1960, resulted in a 77-6 pasting of the University of Mexico, the Lobos' largest margin of victory at the stadium. UNM walloped Texas State-San Marcos last year 72-8. Head coach Rocky Long is 4-2 in both season and home openers in his career at UNM. He has won his last three at home. New Mexico's second-largest home crowd came in the 2001 opener as 41,771 fans shoehorned into the stadium to witness the 26-6 triumph over UTEP. That was the first game after the addition in the north end zone. SEASON TICKET UPDATE; ANOTHER RECORD Through Friday, Aug. 27, a school-record 15,022 season tickets had been sold. The old mark was 14,801 set last year. BIG CHALLENGE TO IMPROVE RECORD AGAIN New Mexico is the only school in NCAA Div. I-A football 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, 7-7 in 2002 and 8-5 in 2003. Getting to nine or more wins in 2004 will be quite demanding for a variety of reasons: 23 seniors - including 13 starters - are gone from last year's team; the Lobos play just 11 regular-season games for the first time since 2001; and UNM has only five home games for the first time in 10 years. According to collegefootballnews.com, the Lobos have the toughest schedule among the eight MWC schools and it ranks No. 50 out of 117 Div. I-A teams, right between Texas and Florida. BYU is No. 53 followed by San Diego State (72), UNLV (73), Colorado State (74), Wyoming (84), Air Force (88) and Utah (91). Of UNM's non-conference foes, Oregon State has the nation's toughest schedule. Texas Tech's ranks No. 5, Washington State No. 44 and New Mexico State No. 112. DEMANDING START TO THE SEASON The 2004 schedule is highlighted by five games against opponents that played in bowl games a year ago, and three of those teams will visit University Stadium in the first five weeks of the season. Of UNM's first five opponents, four played - and won - bowl games last year. Washington State was 10-3 and beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl. Texas Tech finished 8-5 and pounded Navy in the Houston Bowl. Oregon State whipped the Lobos in the Las Vegas Bowl while Utah blanked Southern Miss 17-0 in the Liberty Bowl to finish 10-2. Utah begins the season ranked No. 20 in the AP poll. Oregon State is slotted 33rd, Washington State 34th and Texas Tech tied for 39th. In the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, Utah is No. 21, Oregon State 27th and Washington State 29th. Beginning a season against tough competition is nothing new for New Mexico. The last time the Lobos had a winning record heading into the month of October was 1997 when it began 4-0. "There's no doubt that this is a very challenging schedule for what will be a young football team," said head coach Rocky Long. "The first month will be extremely demanding, but it will also be very exciting for our team and especially our fans. It's a real thrill to start the season at home on national television against a quality opponent like Washington State. We've been trying to get recognition for our program and I believe our success the past few years is being rewarded." LOBO SCOUTING REPORT It's certainly a less experienced team in 2004 as UNM returns 13 fewer letterwinners - a total of 40 - than it did this time last year. The Lobos had 53 lettermen back in 2003, the most of any Lobo team ever and more than any team in the MWC. In 2003, UNM boasted 10 three-year letterwinners, 17 two-year lettermen and 26 players who had one year of experience in a Lobo uniform. Those figures in 2004 are 11 three-year lettermen, 13 two-year lettermen and just 16 with one year of experience, which is 10 fewer than last year. If the depth chart holds true, seven players will make their first career start on Friday. The 11 projected starters on defense have 64 combined starts, but nearly half (31) of those have come from senior LB Nick Speegle. Of the 22 position players slated to start, eight are from New Mexico A position-by-position snapshot of the Lobos: Offense: Six starters return, including a trio of all-conference performers in C Ryan Cook, TB DonTrell Moore and OT Claude Terrell. It will still be a mix of run, option and play-action pass. Last year, UNM ran 616 times and threw 307 passes. Quarterback: The Lobos will have a new starter in athletic sophomore Kole McKamey, who takes over for three-year starter Casey Kelly. McKamey is the first New Mexico native to start a season opener in 17 years. Running Backs: This is a definite strength as the top-two tailbacks and fullbacks return; its arguably the best backfield in the league as Moore, D.D. Cox, Adrian Byrd and Landrick Brody combined for 2,302 yards and 26 TDs a year ago. Offensive Line: Cook and Terrell are All-America candidates while SG Robert Turner was a Freshman All-America in 2003. The quick side is inexperienced as sophomore QG Fred Tucker will make his first career start while junior QT Terrance Pennington will start for the just the fifth time. It's a huge front again as the starting five average 6-5 and 330 lbs. Tights Ends: Maybe the best group of receiving tight ends UNM has had in a long time from the standpoint of athleticism and pass-catching ability. Senior Mike Augustyniak, newcomer Logan Hall and former walk-on Curtis Pino will be frequent targets and 35+ receptions from the position this year is very realistic. Receivers: Of the top-6 on the depth chart, only junior Hank Baskett has played the position in a Lobo uniform. Four of the top-five pass catchers from a year ago are gone. The athletic Baskett will be the go-to guy, but he has just 19 career receptions. Transfer Anthony Carter could be the fastest Lobo in quite some time. Defense: The lobo position - a free safety hybrid - is no longer for the first time under Rocky Long as UNM will operate out of a more traditional 3-4-4 alignment. New Mexico has led the MWC in sacks four straight years and dumped the Washington State quarterback five times last year so the blitz packages are still a prominent part of the strategy. Defensive Line: Probably the biggest area of concern for UNM entering the season. D.J. Renteria, Zach Rupp and Daniel Kegler all claimed some sort of all-league recognition a year ago. The departed trio combined for 126 tackles and 16.5 sacks and Kegler didn't even start. The depleted line now features only two players - senior DE Kyle Coulter and junior NT Marcus Parker - who have seen significant playing time as Lobos. A pair of redshirt freshmen - Michael Tuohy and walk-on Stephen Hutchison - will definitely get reps. Linebackers: Good depth here as three-year starter Nick Speegle anchors a position that will provide support for an inexperienced line. Speedy senior Fola Fashola returns from last year's torn ACL suffered in the second game of the season. Although junior Mike Mohoric and senior Chrishone Harris make their first Lobo starts, they have seen ample time in the past. Look for newcomer Quincy Black to see a lot of action as well. Safety: Again, not much starting experience but Josh Bazinet is a three-year letterman while junior Art Haynes played in 11 games last year. Charles Brown, Martelius Epps, Kevin Walton and Ken West will also be in the rotation at this blitz-happy position. Cornerback: Solid position as Gabriel Fulbright, Jerrell Malone and Brandon Payne all have starting experience. Redshirt freshman Juamar Hall could also see time. Special Teams: Good shape as both kickers return in all-conference K Wes Zunker and punter Tyler Gaus. Zunker was the 4th-most accurate kicker in the nation last year, converting 15 of 17 FGs (88%). QUARTERBACK DEBUTS Head coach Rocky Long announced on Aug. 14, that sophomore Kole McKamey (Artesia, N.M.) will start at quarterback in the opener against Washington State. McKamey and senior Tali Ena battled since spring practice to see who would replace three-year starter Casey Kelly, the school's all-time leader in victories (19). Kelly helped the Lobos to three straight winning seasons from 2001-03 and to consecutive bowl appearances (2002-03). Long did state that Ena - a transfer from Washington State following the 2001 season - will play one series in the second quarter of the Lobos' first three games. The 6-foot-2, 208-pound McKamey will be the first New Mexico native to start a season opener since Barry Garrison got the nod in 1987. Justin Millea (muh-LAY, Silver City, N.M.) got an emergency start at UNLV in 2002 when Kelly was out with a broken arm. Millea led UNM to a 25-16 victory and was named MWC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for 148 yards and a TD in the only start of his career. McKamey played in all 13 games last year, primarily as the holder on kicking placements. He took offensive snaps in six games, completing 10 of 23 passes for 128 yards with two TD passes and three interceptions. McKamey rushed 15 times for 28 yards. TOUTING THE LOBO RUNNING BACKS Led by junior All-America candidate DonTrell Moore, the University of New Mexico offensive backfield could be one of the best in school history. Four returning starters on the offensive line should help their efforts too. College Football News says UNM has the 9th-best group of running backs in the nation. Says the publication of the 2004 Lobos (TBs DonTrell Moore and D.D. Cox and FBs Adrian Byrd and Landrick Brody): "Are these fantastic running backs, or were they so productive because of how good the line was last year? It's a little of both, but DonTrell Moore is the real deal and one of the best backs in the country. There might not be a better pair of fullbacks in college football." Already a Walter Camp and Doak Walker candidate, Moore begins his junior season No. 4 all-time at UNM with 2,584 career rushing yards. He needs 1,279 yards to overtake career leader Mike Williams, who totaled 3,862 in four years from 1975-78. A two-time first-team all-conference performer, Moore galloped for a school-record 1,450 yards in 13 games last season for a league-leading average of 111.5 yards. He was also 1st in the league in all-purpose yards (125.1 ypg) and scoring (9.7 ppg). Cox was a tremendous complement to Moore, rushing for 642 yards and 7 TDs. He had three 100-yard rushing games, including two in the final month of the regular season. The top returning rushing tandems in NCAA this season: 2,358 - Texas - RB Cedric Benson (1,360) and QB Vince Young (998) 2,317 - Minnesota - RB Marion Barber III (1,196) and RB Laurence Maroney (1,121) 2,092 - New Mexico - RB DonTrell Moore (1,450) and RB D.D. Cox (642) 2,050 - Kansas State - RB Darren Sproles (1,986) and RB Donnie Anders (64) 1,947 - North Texas - RB Patrick Cobbs (1,680) and RB Roy Bishop (267) 1,868 - Missouri - QB Brad Smith (1,406) and RB Damien Nash (462) 1,766 - TCU - RB Robert Merrill (1,107) and RB Lonta Hobbs (659) QUICK HITS FROM 2003 New Mexico won eight games for only the eighth time in 105 years of football. After a 1-3 start, the Lobos won seven of their last eight regular-season games. Picked to finish second in the Mountain West Conference, that's exactly where New Mexico finished at 5-2, a game behind regular-season champ Utah. UNM beat the 23rd-ranked Utes 47-35 in Salt Lake, but the Lobos suffered home losses to BYU (10-7) and UNLV (37-35). After no wins over teams with winning records for nearly two years from the middle of the 2001 season, three of the Lobos' last four victories were over teams with winning records: Utah, Colorado State and Air Force. The triumph over Colorado State on Nov. 7 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 21-16 since 2001. In MWC games only, UNM led the league in rushing offense (265.0 ypg), total offense (434.7 ypg), rushing defense (88.6 ypg), scoring defense (19.7 ppg) and total defense (278.9 ypg). CHANGES ON THE STAFF Troy Reffett was named the Lobos' cornerbacks coach on Feb. 17. Reffett fills the vacancy left by Jeff Conway, who was special teams coordinator and receivers coach. Reffett spent the past 14 years on the staff at UTEP, including the past two seasons as the Miners' defensive coordinator. Everett Todd, UNM's cornerbacks coach the past two years, now oversees all special teams and coordinate the Lobos' recruiting. Receivers report to Jason Strauss, who continue his duties as tight ends coach. MORE OFFENSE NOTES The 2003 Lobos put up offensive numbers not seen in a while. UNM averaged 30.1 points a game to lead the league in that category for the first time since 1986. It's the highest average since the 1997 team averaged 32.5. The total offense average of 400.5 yards ranked 2nd in the league and 39th in the NCAA and is the most productive by a Rocky Long team as well, easily besting the 2001 average of 376.8 ypg. UNM averaged 435.7 yards in 1996. UNM averaged just 324.4 yards a game in 2002, last in the MWC and 102nd nationally. Nice balance: UNM averaged 210.0 yards on the ground and 190.5 yards passing. New Mexico really turned it up a notch offensively the latter part of the year. The Lobos gained 2,540 yards the last six games, an average of 423.3 yards a game. That compared to an average of 381 yards the first seven games of the season. The 1,218 yards against Utah and UNLV are the most in consecutive games since 1989 (527 vs. San Diego State, 691 vs. Utah). The Lobos' running game finished 16th in the nation at 210.0 yards a game, the best average since the 1996 team was at 244.7. Under Rocky Long, the Lobos are 18-5 when rushing for 200 yards or more and 16-3 when exceeding 225 yards. The losses came against Colorado State (254 yards) in 1999, Utah State (263 yards) in 2002 and Texas Tech (235) this season. UNM surpassed 500 yards of total offense four times and two of those have came on the road (Texas Tech, Utah). In 37 games between 2000-02, the Lobos reached 500 yards just twice. For the first time in school history, the Lobos scored 30 or more points in five straight games between Oct. 4 and Nov. 7. Subbing for the injured DonTrell Moore, D.D. Cox had a memorable evening at Texas Tech. Although his first carry did not come until midway through the second quarter when Moore was sidelined, 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. DEFENSIVE DATA Only five teams have finished in the top-30 in the nation in total defense each of the past four seasons: Kansas State, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee. UNM finished 28th in 2003, allowing 334.3 yards a game. The Lobos were 83rd nationally after the first five games, allowing 388.2 yards. New Mexico allowed a league-best 86.1 rushing yards a game, good for 5th nationally behind Southern Cal (60.2 ypg), Ohio State (62.3), LSU (67.0) and Oregon State (84.4). Only Air Force (158), BYU (136), New Mexico State (106), Colorado State (111) and Oregon State (154) reached 100 yards against UNM. The 86.1-yard allowance is the lowest by a Lobo team since stats became official in 1946. It's only the second time New Mexico has held opponents under 100 yards rushing for an entire season. The 2001 defensive unit allowed 87.4 yards a game to also finish No. 5 in the final NCAA stats. Since the start of the 2001 season - a span of 38 games - opponents have been held to less than 100 yards rushing 19 times. Only three times in the past 47 games has an opponent reached 200 yards on the ground. In MWC games only in 2003, the Lobos finished 1st in the league in rushing defense (88.6 ypg) and total defense (278.9 ypg). UNM has led the MWC in sacks for four straight seasons. The Lobos had 39 dumps, 10 more than UNLV and Colorado State. In 2000, New Mexico ranked second nationally with 50 sacks, the third-highest total in school history. UNM registered 26 dumps in 2001 and 38 in `02. COACH LONG SAYS "August 9th (the first practice) seems like a long time ago. I know I speak for the entire team when I say we're ready to play a game and see where we stand. We have a lot of unknowns going into the first game because several players on both sides of the ball will be seeing extensive playing time for the first time in their collegiate careers. Washington State is somewhat similar in that regard because they lost quite a few starters as well." "We're in pretty good shape from an injury standpoint. We had our normal bumps, bruises and minor muscle strains the first couple of weeks, but we've pulled back on the contact the past few days." "I anticipate a very competitive football game. Both teams are coming off successful seasons and want to continue that trend. I know we are very excited about showcasing New Mexico football to a national television audience in an early-season game, an opportunity we have not had. I know our fans will be ready." "We've come quite a ways as a program in the past four or five years, but we still haven't had much success when we face some of the BCS schools. Friday is an opportunity to make some noise against a program (Washington State) that has been a prominent player on the national stage for sometime. I expect some early penalties due to nervousness with the new kids, but after a few hits I think we'll be fine. At least I hope so."