Dec. 1, 2009
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The University of New Mexico football team placed three players on the All-Mountain West Conference First Team the league announced this afternoon. Senior center Erik Cook, sophomore linebacker Carmen Messina, and senior punter Adam Miller were each recognized as one of the best at their position by the MWC coaches and media. Sophomore defensive end Johnathan Rainey (second team) and senior defensive tackle Kendall Briscoe (honorable mention) were also honored by the conference.
New Mexico's three first team all-MWC picks were the fourth-highest total, trailing only TCU (9), Utah (6), and BYU (4) - all of which are ranked among the top-25 in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll. No other MWC school had more than one first team selection.
Cook, a second team all-MWC pick last year who was the lone Lobo on the preseason all-MWC team (media-only vote), capped his outstanding career by giving New Mexico a first team all-MWC center for the fifth time in the last seven years. Cook's older brother Ryan earned three straight awards from 2003-05, while Vince Natali was honored in 2007.
Erik Cook (Albuquerque Cibola HS) played every snap in all 12 games this fall, finishing the season with 88 knockdown blocks, including 49 over the final five games. He allowed just one sack in 470 passing attempts - the most in the MWC - and had just one penalty in 836 plays this year. Cook had flawless technique on at least 80 percent of his snaps in 10 games.
The Lobos' top linebacker off the bench as a redshirt freshman last fall, Messina turned in a breakthrough 2009, leading the nation with 162 tackles as first-year starter. He is the first UNM linebacker to earn first team honors since Mike Mohoric in 2005, but extended the Lobos' streak to 13 consecutive years with at least one player on the first team all-conference defense. Messina was one of just three sophomores on the all-MWC first team.
The Addison, Ill. product had double-digit tackles in all but two games, capping the season with 17 at No. 4 TCU to finish third on the UNM single season tackles list. Messina also added 8.0 tackles for loss, including 3.0 sacks, forced two fumbles, and had an interception.
Miller was one of the most improved players on the team as a second-year starter this fall, leading the league and ranking 11th nationally with a 44.0-yard average on his 64 punts. His average was the best by a Lobo since 1993 and ranked fourth on the single season list. Miller closed the season with a tremendous two-month surge, finishing with career-highs of 17 punts of 50 yards or more, 15 punts inside the 20, and a net average of 37.2 yards.
Miller (Santa Fe, N.M.) became the first UNM punter to earn first team all-conference honors since Jason Bloom in 1997 and just the third in program history since Steve Bauer broke through in 1974.
Rainey and Briscoe, meanwhile, went from unknowns to two of the most dangerous defensive linemen in the Mountain West in their first year as starters in the Lobos' new 4-3 system.
Rainey tied for the league lead with 15.5 tackles for loss (15 solo) and was second behind TCU All-American Jerry Hughes with 9.5 sacks - the most by a Lobo since 2000. The Houston native led all UNM defensive linemen with 52 tackles and had a team-high 38 quarterback hits/hurries.
Briscoe finished his career year ranked second on the team and fourth in the conference with 13.5 tackles for loss (13 solo) - the most by any MWC defensive tackle. He also had career-highs of 3.0 sacks, 46 tackles, 14 quarterback hits/hurries, three pass break-ups, and also blocked a field goal and extra point. The Dallas native entered the season with career totals of 3.5 tackles for loss and 43 tackles in 35 games.
Notes New Mexico had at least three players earn first team all-MWC honors for the eight time in the last nine years...CB Glover Quin was the lone Lobo recognized in 2008...UNM has had 37 first team all-MWC honorees since 2003 - an average of more than 5 per season - including a league record 33 during a five-year run from 2003-07.
Erik Cook is the third Lobo center to earn first team all-MWC honors since 2003...his older brother Ryan was named to the first team a record three straight years from 2003-05, while Vince Natali was recognized in 2007...the UNM offensive line group, dubbed "The Hitmen" has had 7 different players earn first team honors 11 times since 2003.
Carmen Messina is the first Lobo linebacker to earn first team all-MWC honors since Mike Mohoric in 2005 and the fifth different LB recognized on the first time since 2001...Gary Davis (2001), Charles Moss (2002), and Nick Speegle (2004) were the others
New Mexico has had at least one player named to the first team all-conference defense since 1997 - a span of 13 years
Messina was one of three sophomores to earn first team all-MWC honors, joining BYU offensive lineman Matt Reynolds and TCU kicker Ross Evans...he is the first UNM sophomore or freshman recognized on the first team since center Ryan Cook and running back DonTrell Moore in 2003.
Adam Miller is the third Lobo punter in program history to earn first team all-conference honors, joining Steve Bauer (1974) and Jason Bloom (1997)
Messina, Miller, Rainey, and Briscoe all received their first all-MWC recognition of any kind...Cook was a second team pick in 2008