Nov. 21, 2009
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
New Mexico's James Aho trotted out onto University Stadium with 15 seconds hovering between the Lobos and the possibility of a winless season and Aho casually told his holder, Adam Miller: "It's going in for you, Adam."
And then the Colorado State Rams tried to ice the Lobo kicker with a timeout and maybe remind the sophomore that the space in the middle was guarded by two posts - posts Aho had hit four times a week earlier in a loss to BYU.
"So we did it again, said the same thing with a little brotherly love thrown in there. It was just another kick," Aho said, unable to swallow down a Chesire-Cat-like smile that lightened up his boyish face.
Yeah, it was another kick like the Empire State Building is another building and the Pacific Ocean is just another big swimming pool.
Aho's boot wasn't dead center, but it didn't hit any posts like a week ago. His kick from 27 yards stabbed through the goalposts to hand the Lobos a dramatic, 29-27, come-from-behind, Mountain West Conference victory and end the haunting possibility that Mike Locksley's first season as a Lobo would produce no wins.
The kick had dramatic impact. The Lobo players doused their head coach with liquid, charged the field and let the celebration of victory carry into the Lobos' locker room where the hugging included more than a few teary eyes.
"You can't describe this," said senior Frankie Baca of La Cueva High, who killed one CSU drive with an interception. "This team has been through so much.
"It hasn't been happy like this in here for quite a while and after so many losses, you almost forget what it feels like. It feels great and it feels great to have the feeling back."
The 1-10 (1-6 MWC) Lobos almost lost the feeling when Colorado State went up 27-23 and appeared set to put the game out of reach with a drive to the Lobos' 9-yard line with about six minutes to play. The Rams needed a TD to probably put the game out of reach while a short field goal would mean UNM couldn't win the game with a last-second field goal.
CSU sent John Mosure off tackle and the football was pulled from his grasp by UNM's Joe Stoner, who also recovered the fumble at the Lobos' 5-yard line. UNM used its possession to establish field position and punted the ball away with 2:53 to play.
The Rams were a first down away from a win, but went to the ground and punted the ball back to UNM with 1:22 to play. The Lobos took over at the CSU 45-yard line.
A huge play on the game-winning drive was QB Donovan Porterie facing a 4th-and-3 at the CSU 38-yard line. The game was on the line. The Lobo senior rolled out of the pocket to his right, didn't find an open teammate and scrambled to the CSU 33. First down.
"I was glad to have the ball in my hands," said Porterie. "There was nothing on the rollout, so I decided to tuck it and get three yards."
Freshman Kasey Carrier then went 22 yards to the CSU 11-yard line and the final scenario was a clear as the scoreboard that still favored the Rams by a point. The win would come down to good blocking, a good snap, a good hold and a routine kick.
"After that run (by Carrier), we knew we had the game because we all had faith in James (Aho)," said Porterie. "We were in a lot of clutch situations and guys just kept coming through and we knew James would, too.
"This win has been a long time coming. It's bad that it took us so long to get it, but what we went through makes this moment even more special."
Said Aho: "We all wanted this for the seniors. We could have won the (BYU) game last week with my points and it was in my head that if it came down to a kick, I was going to do this for the seniors."
The Rams, who came into Albuquerque riding a seven-game losing streak, were just a few plays away from a win. They led UNM 21-17 and 27-23. CSU didn't hand this game to the Lobos and UNM had to fight back from adversity to find the win. The Lobos did many of the same things they did in losing games. This time they found a way to win.
An Aho extra point was blocked which put UNM in a precarious situation on the scoreboard. Porterie also turned a UNM scoring chance into a 97-yard CSU TD when he threw short to a Lobo target and Nick Oppenner went all the way for the Rams.
That handed CSU a 27-23 lead which the Rams almost widened before UNM's Stoner preserved UNM's chance for a comeback with his strip- and-recovery.
The Lobos lost a game to BYU last Saturday that UNM dominated statistically. The Lobos also stat-slapped the Rams: 467 total yards to 370; 26 first downs to 18, 270 yards rushing to 197.
The ground work by UNM was critical to this outcome. Freshman Demond Dennis had 133 yards on seven carries and freshman Kasey Carrier had 87 yards on 15 carries. Dennis averaged 19 yards per tote and UNM averaged 7.7 yards as a team.
"When we needed to run the football, we were able to do it," said Locksley. "That's a testament to the guys up front, but those freshmen running backs are special."
Porterie completed 22 of 37 passes for 197 yards with 2 TDs and 2 interceptions. Victor James caught six passes for 62 yards and Ty Kirk caught six for 58 yards. Carmen Messina had 12 tackles, Frankie Solomon had 9 and Clint McPeek had 8. Baca had UNM's lone interception.
The Lobos close their season this coming Saturday in Fort Worth - the home of the No. 4-ranked TCU Horned Frogs.