Lobos, Cougars Square Off in Key MWC Clash
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  11/08/2004
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Nov. 8, 2004

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Call it Breakfast at BYU. The University of New Mexico goes after its fourth straight win Saturday with an early start time against the Cougars. UNM and BYU will tee it up at 10:07 a.m., Mountain Time from LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo. The game will be televised live by SportsWest with local availability provided by KRQE-TV in Albuquerque. It's also part of the ESPN GamePlan package. The Cougars are playing at home for the fourth time in the past five games. Both teams are riding 3-game winning streaks.

The Lobos close out their regular season next week at home against Wyoming. The Cowboys, picked to finish last in the MWC in the preseason poll, attained bowl eligibility Saturday with a 53-45 triple overtime win at UNLV. The Pokes are 6-3 overall and tied with the Lobos for third place in the MWC with a 3-2 record. Wyoming hosts Utah this week.

There's plenty at stake this weekend as Saturday's UNM-BYU winner will extend its winning streak to four games and become the MWC's third bowl eligible team.

Although not happening often, New Mexico has had a couple of mid-morning kickoffs in the past decade. The Lobos beat Air Force 29-23 in Colorado Springs on Oct. 21, 2000, and lost to Colorado State 41-13 in the 1997 Western Athletic Conference championship game in Las Vegas. Both those games started at 10 local time.

UNM is 5-4 overall and tied with Wyoming for third place in the Mountain West Conference at 3-2. The Lobos are coming off a 26-17 victory at Colorado State on Oct. 30. Well-rested after a bye last week, New Mexico - as has been the case the past few seasons - is playing its best football of the year, posting three straight wins after an 0-2 start to the conference season.

Also 5-4 overall, but 4-1 in the MWC and all alone in second place, the Cougars hammered San Diego State 49-16 last Saturday in Provo for their third straight victory. It's BYU's longest winning streak since the 2001 team started 12-0. The Cougars have prevailed in four of their last five games after starting 1-3. Going 5-7 in 2002 and 4-8 last year, BYU is trying to avoid having three straight losing seasons for the first time since enduring six in a row from 1959-64.

During their respective three-game winning streaks, the Cougars have averaged 38 points a game while he Lobos have allowed 15.3 ppg. BYU has given up just 19.6 ppg in five league games, tops in the MWC.

The Lobos lead the MWC in rushing defense (104.3 ypg), total defense (322.3 ypg), scoring defense (18.6 ppg) and are 2nd in pass defense efficiency with a rating of 111.46. BYU is 1st in the league and 10th nationally in pass offense, averaging 289.2 yards a game.

In the past two games, the Cougars have scored 44 points in the 3rd quarter and it has been their most productive period of 2004 with 89 points overall. Conversley, UNM has yielded just 19 points in the 3rd quarter this season, and only 9 points over the past seven games. Additionally, New Mexico has allowed just 46 points in the 2nd half of its last seven contests.

BYU and New Mexico rank 1-2 in the MWC in sacks. The Cougars have 30, the Lobos 27. UNM led the league in dumps from 2000-03.

Turnovers, as usual, could be key Saturday and New Mexico has been very good in that area. The Lobos are 2nd in the MWC and tied for 6th nationally with a turnover margin of +1.22 (24 takeaways to 13 giveaways). The margin is even better in five MWC games at +2.2 (14 to 3) and it's an amazing 11-1 ratio the past three games. The past six games, New Mexico has forced 16 turnovers while losing it just four times. BYU is 5th in the conference and 103rd among NCAA schools with a turnover margin of -0.89 a game. The Cougars have committed 25 turnovers (13 fumbles/12 interceptions), while gaining 17 opponents' miscues. They have been better in conference play, however, losing the ball 12 times while gaining 11 from their opponents.

The Lobos are 5-1 in their last six MWC road games, including 3-0 in 2003. They have also captured 7 of their past 9 and are 9-3 in their last 12 away from Albuquerque. Surprisingly, New Mexico is just 3-3 in its past six league games played at University Stadium.

Saturday will mark New Mexico head coach Rocky Long's 83rd game at his alma mater, surpassing Bill Weeks for most career games leading the Lobo program. Weeks compiled a 40-41-1 ledger from 1960-67. Long is 38-44 into his seventh season. In terms of total seasons, only Roy Johnson (11) and Bill Weeks (8) have been at UNM for more time than Long.

Junior TB DonTrell Moore has enjoyed playing in November. The MWC's career rushing leader has suited up eight times in the 11th month of the year, carrying 218 times for 1,234 yards and 13 TDs. That's an average of 154.3 yards a game. Moore needs 169 yards in the Lobos' final two games to reach 1,000 yards for the third consecutive season.

A win at BYU would provide a bountiful list of accomplishments for the Lobo program:

> bowl eligibility for the 4th straight season > 4 straight wins overall, tying the longest streak under head coach Rocky Long > 4 road wins in one season for the first time since 1997 (4-1) > make the Lobos 6-1 in their last seven MWC road games, 8-2 in their last 10 and 10-3 in their last 13 > at least 4 conference wins in three straight years for only the second time in school history (also 1958-60) > back-to-back wins at BYU for the first time > at least 6 wins in four straight years for first time since 1961-64 > clinch UNM's 4th straight non-losing season for the first time since 1958-64 > a 10-3 record in November games since 2001

After playing its first two games at home, UNM plays six of its final nine games away from Albuquerque.

The 2004 Lobos are a young team with only two senior starters on offense and five on defense.

LOBOS LOVE THE BYE WEEK - Since 1998, UNM is 7-0 following scheduled open weeks under Rocky Long. The week after the postponement of games on Sept. 11, 2001, is not included. Looking back further shows the Lobos have won 10 straight since 1996 following a scheduled break. The last loss after a bye was 48-42 to San Diego State in Albuquerque on Oct. 19, 1996.

Bye date Next Game Result Nov. 16, 1996 W vs. UTEP, 44-17 Sept. 27, 1997 W vs. SMU, 22-15 Nov. 8, 1997 W vs. BYU, 38-28 Oct. 2, 1999 W at San Diego State, 24-21 Oct. 23, 1999 W vs. UNLV, 27-6 Oct. 14, 2000 W at Air Force, 29-23 Oct. 20, 2001 W vs. Air Force, 52-33 Oct. 5, 2002 W at UNLV, 25-16 Nov. 2, 2002 W vs. San Diego State, 15-8 Oct. 11, 2003 W at San Diego State, 30-7

LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION - Shooting for the movie, "#1," began in Albuquerque at the Oct. 23 game against San Diego State. Los Angeles-based Horseshoe Bay Productions got crowd shots, filmed from the tunnel as the Lobos were entering the field and from inside the press box. They also traveled to Colorado State and are expected to be at BYU as well.

The fictional film is about a New Mexico college football coach's struggles and triumphs over the course of a season. The majority of the film will be shot in Albuquerque and at UNM's athletics facilities before Thanksgiving. The film is expected to be released in the fall of 2005. The director is Stephen Gyllenhaal (JILL-en-hall), the producer is Gary Foster.

SLOW STARTS, FAST FINISHES - That's been the story of Lobo football the past few seasons. As the leaves start to fall, so have the opponents. A look at UNM's recent 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 3-0

COACH LONG SAYS - (on the off week) -- "When you're on a little winning streak you never know how the off week will affect your team, but I think it was good for us. We've been going full bore for almost 12 straight weeks and we have a lot of guys that used the extra days to get healthy. Hopefully, we won't lose our edge. I really don't think we will considering how important the football game is this week. It will be another dogfight. We will have to play well in all facets since BYU is playing its best football of the season."

(on BYU) -- "The past three weeks certainly looks like BYU teams we have seen in the past; very, very explosive on offense. Outside of Utah, they are probably playing the best football of anyone in the league. They've settled their quarterback situation and you can tell he (John Beck) is feeling comfortable. This will be a big challenge for our defense, especially our secondary. We also need to be more efficient on offense than we have."

THE BYU SERIES - It's the 54th meeting and the two rivals have played every year since 1951. The Cougars have a commanding 39-13-1 lead in the series. BYU leads 20-5 in Provo and 19-8-1 in Albuquerque where the Lobos have not won since 1997. The Cougars have won five of six and are 29-3 against UNM since 1972, which was former head coach LaVell Edwards' first season.

The Cougars' 10-7 win last year in Albuquerque was their fifth in the past six games against UNM. Reynaldo Brathwaite had 169 yards rushing, including an 89-yard run that set up a FG. BYU QB Matt Berry (hand) and UNM OT Jason Lenzmeier (knee) did not play in the second half.

After winning in Provo in 2002, the Lobos seek consectuive victories at BYU for the first time. New Mexico's 20-16 triumph two years ago was its first in Provo in 31 years, snapping a 14-game skid. The Lobos held BYU to 188 yards of total offense. The Cougars came into the game averaging 416 yards.

Lobo head coach Rocky Long was born in Provo when his father, Rod, was playing football at BYU. BYU defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall held the same position with the Lobos from 1998-2002.

New Mexico has failed to cause a turnover against BYU three times since Rocky Long took over in 1998. The Cougars were error-free in 1999, 2001 and 2003. Under Long, UNM is 1-10 when it does not force a turnover. New Mexico has held the BYU offense to just 496 yards the past two years.

LAST YEAR AT ALBUQUERQUE - BYU relied on defense and field position to fend off the Lobos 10-7, denying UNM from taking consecutive wins over the Cougars for the first time since 1971.

BYU held UNM scoreless in the first half and to just 125 yards of total offense. New Mexico finished with 312 yards. Of the Lobos' 13 possessions, eight started inside their own 17-yard line. UNM's average starting field position in the second half was its own 15.

BYU got on the board first. An 89-yard run from TB Reynaldo Brathwaite on a busted play put the Cougars in business at the UNM 2. The Lobo defense held and BYU had to settle for a field goal. Early in the second quarter, UNM drove to the Cougar 25 where it faced a 3rd-and-6. An option try resulted in a bad pitch by QB Casey Kelly and BYU recovered at the 34.

The Cougars made it 10-0 on a 29-yard pass play from QB Matt Berry to Phillip Niu.

The teams traded punts to start the third quarter before the Lobos finally got a big play. Senior WR Adrian Boyd took a screen pass from Kelly and weaved his way 66 yards to the BYU 5. DonTrell Moore scored from the 3 to make it a 10-7 game with 1:06 left in the third period.

The Lobos seemed poised to tie or take the lead on their next possession when they marched to the BYU 28. However, UNM lost three yards on a 3rd-and-1 then came up just short on fourth down as the 13-play drive went by the wayside. New Mexico's final two possessions started at its own 7 and 15, respectively. The Cougars took over with 4:47 left and picked up three first downs to seal the victory.

Of BYU's 185 first-half yards, 89 came on Brathwaite's first quarter run. The Cougars had 96 yards on their other 32 plays, an average of three yards per play.

Brathwaite tallied 169 yards on 19 carries and became only the 7th player to eclipse 100 yards rushing against the Lobos since the start of the 2000 season, a span of 40 games.

The two teams had the fewest combined points at University Stadium since Oct. 28, 2000, when New Mexico defeated Utah 10-3. Despite nursing a tender ankle, sophomore TB DonTrell Moore rushed for 104 yards on 21 carries.

TWO YEARS AGO AT PROVO - Another staggering defensive performance allowed the Lobos to leave BYU with a 20-16 victory, their first at Provo since 1971 when current head coach Rocky Long was UNM's quarterback.

All was not secure until senior LB Charles Moss picked off a Matt Berry pass with 1:42 left in the game. The Lobos limited BYU to just 188 yards of total offense, 94 rushing and 94 passing. Ironically, that's the fewest yards by a BYU team against UNM since that 1971 game when the Cougars had just 169 yards (103 rushing, 66 passing). BYU came into the game ranked 17th in the nation in passing (279.8 ypg) and 18th in total offense (415.9 ypg).

New Mexico fell behind 10-0 after one quarter due to turnovers. QB Casey Kelly had an interception returned 80 yards for a TD, then DonTrell Moore's fumble inside the Lobo 30-yard line led to a Cougar field goal.

The Lobos got back into the game thanks to a BYU miscue. Junior S Brandon Ratcliff returned a Berry interception to the Cougar 2. Two plays later, Moore scored from the 1. Later in the second quarter, UNM went on a monstrous 17-play, 82-yard drive that gobbled 8:02 off the clock. Kelly found WR Dwight Counter on a 7-yard scoring pass as the Lobos grabbed a 14-10 lead. The march was kept alive by a BYU offsides penalty on 4th-and-1 near midfield and the Lobos converted another 4th-and-1 four plays later.

BYU's longest play from scrimmage was 28 yards, provided by kicker Matt Payne on a fake punt right before halftime. The trickery led to a 52-yard field goal and pulled the Cougars to within 14-13 at the break.

Another Kelly interception in the third quarter put BYU at the Lobo 24. The defense held again, though, as the Cougars had to settle for a 37-yard field and a 16-14 advantage.

Mustering just one first down and 20 yards of offense in the third period, the Lobos got untracked on their second drive of the fourth quarter. Starting at their own 24 following a BYU punt, Kelly drove the Lobos 76 yards in six plays, culminating in Moore's 2-yard plunge. The key plays were a beautiful 27-yard sideline toss to WR Adrian Boyd and Kelly's audible on 2nd-and-11 from the BYU 34. The check-off to a speed-option play resulted in Moore bolting 32 yards to the 2.

COUGAR NOTES - BYU was 4-8 last year and finished tied for 4th in the MWC at 3-4. Head coach Gary Crowton (BYU `83) is 44-29 in his 7th year overall and 23-17 in his 4th campaign with the Cougars. Crowton is 2-1 against the Lobos, 0-1 in Provo.

Junior QB John Beck is averaging 233.7 yards passing in all games, completing 56% (153-274) of his passes for 2,103 yards, 12 TDs and 7 interceptions. However, in five MWC contests he leads the leaguer with an average of 273.4 yards, plus 9 TDs and 4 ints.

Sophomore RB Curtis Brown is averaging 117.6 yards and 6.8 yards per attempt in five MWC games. That compares to just 104 yards on 33 carries in four non-league games.

Junior WR Todd Watkins has 5 TDs of 68 yards or longer. He is 5th in the nation in receiving yards per game at 110.6, and 6th in the MWC with 5.2 catches a game. Watkins is averaging a whopping 21.2 yards per reception.

Freshman WR Austin Collie is averaging 5.1 catches and 68.2 yards per game. He also has 7 TD receptions.

Senior K Matt Payne has made an NCAA-record 14 consecutive field goals between 40 and 49 yards. The previous mark was 12 by Notre Dame's John Carney during the 1984-85 seasons. Payne also leads the MWC in punting with an average of 45.3 yards per kick. The Cougars are 6th nationally in net punting at 41.4 yards.

DL Brady Poppinga ranks 2nd in the MWC in tackles for loss (11.5) and is tied for 2nd in sacks (6). COLORADO STATE REVIEW - The 26-17 decision at CSU allowed UNM to get over .500 for the first time this year...UNM has won back-to-back games over Colorado State for the first time since 1981-82...it was the Lobos' first victory in Fort Collins since a 22-14 win in 1995...the last 11 regular season games between the two schools have been decided by 9 points or less

New Mexico overcame a halftime deficit for the second straight game on the road (it trailed 17-7 at UNLV) and also won for the first time in 5 games this year when allowing its opponent to score first...the second-half comeback was just the Lobos' third in 10 tries over the past 2 years

The Lobos put up 13 points in the 3rd quarter and have outscored their opponents 80-19 in the third quarter and it's 66-9 over the past 7 games...the Rams' TD was the first allowed by UNM in the 3rd quarter since Washington State scored in the season opener

The Lobos recovered two fumbles and had an interception, all coming in the second half, leading to 3 FGs

Junior TB DonTrell Moore continued his success against the Rams, rushing for 154 yards on 29 carries...Moore passed Winslow Oliver (1992-95) with his school-record 17th career 100-yard game and also moved ahead of Oliver for 2nd place all-time at UNM with 3,415 yards rushing...the Roswell, N.M., native also scored his 40th career touchdown, passing WR Terance Mathis (1985-89) for the most in UNM history...Moore has rushed for over 100 yards in each of his 3 games against Colorado State, averaging 192.3 yards/game (577 total) in his career...Moore has also gone over the 100-yard mark in 3 straight road games

Senior K Wes Zunker tied a career-high with 4 FGs, including a 50-yard slam with 3:26 left to give UNM a 26-17 lead...he was named MWC Special Teams Player of the Week for the third time in his career...the game-sealing FG was his second from 50 yards or longer in his career, but first since booting a 51-yarder vs. UTEP on the first attempt of his career as a true freshman in 2001...Zunker is just the 3rd Lobo to convert 2 or more 50-yard FGs in his career (2-3), joining Rick Walsh (3) and Jason Bloom (3)...Zunker's 5 attempts, including a missed 48-yarder, were a career-high...it was his second multiple field goal game of the season and sixth of his career...Zunker also converted from 46, 21, and 30 yards out

Senior LB Nick Speegle continued his stellar play, notching 8 tackles, including 7 solo stops...Speegle also had 2 tackles for losses of 8 yards and a tipped pass at the line of scrimmage to break up a 3rd-down play and was named MWC Co-Defensive Player of the Week..Speegle, who has started 39 straight games, now has 296 career tackles to rank 18th all-time at UNM...he is just 7 stops from passing Robert Rumbaugh (301) and John Bell (302) for No. 16 on the list

UNM leading receiver Hank Baskett played through a badly bruised left knee that he suffered during the second quarter of the win over San Diego State and had a career-long 69-yard catch-and-run TD to put the Lobos up 23-14 in the fourth quarter...Baskett limped into the end zone for his second TD of the year and first since the second game of the season vs. Texas Tech...the TD was also the longest pass play of the year for New Mexico...Baskett had a 64-yard gain on a screen pass in the season opener vs. Washington State...he finished with 3 catches for 88 yards

Junior TB Daniel Ramirez, who had one career punt return for 0 yards before the CSU game, recorded the longest punt return of the year for UNM, a 33-yard runback that set up a 3rd quarter TD by DonTrell Moore...the return matches the longest the Lobos had in 2003...New Mexico's previous best this season was an 18-yard gain by Brandon Payne at UNLV...a former walk-on, Ramirez had 2 returns for 49 yards on the afternoon...that compares to team totals of 23 returns for 155 yards entering the game, however, 46 of those yards came on a blocked punt

Senior CB Brandon Payne broke up his school-record 15th pass of the season in the second quarter...Eric Jack had 14 in 1994...he grabbed his 5th interception late in the game to set up Zunker's 50-yard FG...Payne continues to lead the nation in passes defended with (pass deflections + interceptions) for an average of 2.22 a game...he has 15 deflections and a MWC-high 5 interceptions, tying for 6th nationally...

Senior WR Martin Romero, a Fort Collins native (Fort Collins HS), playing in front of 50 friends and family members, recorded his first career reception (for 7 yards) in the second quarter during the Lobos' first scoring drive...Romero, a former walk-on, transferred to New Mexico from Northern Colorado University in 2001...he was placed on scholarship this past August

Jeff Babcock's 89-yard punt in the first quarter (69 net) was the longest ever by a New Mexico opponent...UTEP's Ed Bunn had the previous record with an 83-yard kick in 1991

New Mexico held CSU to 35 yards rushing on 34 carries, the Rams lowest total since 1999...the past 2 games, opponents have rushed 64 times for a net 16 yards...that's 3 inches per carry

UNM had 4 more sacks, giving them 9 in the past 2 games and 27 on the season

Making his 4th straight start, junior DE Evroy Thompson had 4 tackles, 3 for 14 yards in losses, a 10-yard sack and he caused a fumble...he has 16 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks and 2 forced fumbles since being inserted into the starting lineup 4 games ago