September 8, 2003
Mountain West Conference play gets underway Saturday as the New Mexico Lobos host the Brigham Young Cougars. Kickoff is 6:07 p.m. Mountain Time from University Stadium. A crowd in excess of 33,000 is expected. The game will be televised live by SportsWest and air throughout the state of New Mexico on KRQE-TV.
New Mexico is now 1-1 on the season after losing a 42-28 shootout at Texas Tech. BYU is also 1-1 following a 35-18 setback at No. 4 Southern Cal. The Lobos and Cougars experienced similar defeats Saturday. Due to early mistakes, they each fell behind 21-0 before rallying to make it close. UNM trailed just 35-28 with 5:30 left in the fourth quarter. BYU was only down 21-18 with 7:05 remaining. Both quarterbacks threw three interceptions and a TD pass.
This is the Lobos' earliest conference home game since opening against BYU on September 4, 1993, a 34-31 Cougar win.
The Lobos have won four straight home games and they are 9-2 in their last 11 contests at University Stadium. New Mexico was 3-0 at home last year against MWC opposition and it has won six of its past seven league games in Albuquerque. UNM has also captured six of its last seven home games against non-conference competition.
New Mexico was picked to finish second in the MWC in the preseason poll. BYU was projected to finish fourth. Both teams received one first-place vote.
UNM returns a whopping 53 lettermen - including 17 offensive and defensive starters - from a team that finished second in the MWC last year and played in a bowl game for only the second time since 1961.
The consensus from the preseason publications has the Lobos again finishing second in the loop behind perennial power Colorado State, although some annuals have tagged 2003 as the "Year of the Lobo."
New Mexico was picked to finish second in the official Mountain West Conference preseason poll. That's the highest predicted finish for a Lobo team since polls could be found dating to the early 1980s. Six Lobos were named to the 2003 preseason all-MWC team: OT Jason Lenzmeier, TB DonTrell Moore and OG Claude Terrell on offense and DE Daniel Kegler, S Brandon Ratcliff and NT D.J. Renteria on defense.
The Lobos received nine votes in the ESPN/USA Today Top 25 preseason coaches' poll, good for a tie for 47th place with Georgia Tech. They had 13 votes prior to the Texas Tech game. UNM's Rocky Long is one of 63 NCAA Div. I-A head coaches who votes in the poll.
For only the second time in the history of University Stadium, the Lobos will play seven home games in 2003. UNM also played seven here in 1995. The home slate could be a big reason why the pundits predict New Mexico could claim its first outright conference crown since 1963. Four of UNM's seven conference games will be played at University Stadium. BYU, UNLV, Colorado State and Air Force all visit Albuquerque this fall.
Going 13-12 in 2001-02, New Mexico guns for its third straight non-losing record for the first time since a seven-year run from 1958-64. After playing in the Las Vegas Bowl last year, UNM seeks consecutive postseason appearances for only the second time in school history, since appearing in the 1945 Sun Bowl and the 1946 Harbor Bowl. The most wins by New Mexico in a three-year period is 22 between 1962-64.
New Mexico has the distinction of being the only school in the nation 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 and 7-7 in 2002.
SEASON TICKET UPDATE:
Through Friday, September 5, UNM had sold a school-record 14,753 season tickets. Last year's total was 14,142 while the previous record was 14,254 set in 1998. A six-game prorated season ticket is currently available.
LOBOS WORTH WATCHING:
Several Lobos are currently on "Watch Lists" for national awards:
Rimington Trophy - Outstanding Center (www.rimingtontrophy.com)
Doak Walker Award - Outstanding Running Back (www.doakwalkeraward.com)
Butkus Award - Best Linebacker (www.butkusaward.org)
Rotary Lombardi Award - Outstanding Lineman (www.rotarylombardiaward.com)
Outland Trophy - Outstanding Interior Lineman (www.fwaa.com)
THE BYU SERIES:
It's the 53rd meeting and the two rivals have played every year since 1951. The Cougars have a commanding 38-13-1 lead in the series. BYU leads 20-5 in Provo and 18-8-1 in Albuquerque where the Lobos have not won since 1997. The Cougars have won four of five and are 28-3 against UNM since 1972, former head coach LaVell Edwards' first season.
Last year's 20-16 victory was UNM's first in Provo in 31 years, snapping a 14-game skid in Utah. The Lobos held BYU to 188 yards of total offense. The Cougars came into the game averaging 416 yards.
New Mexico has not won consecutive games over BYU since 1970-71 when current head coach Rocky Long was the Lobos' starting quarterback. UNM prevailed 51-8 in Albuquerque in 1970 and 14-0 a year later in Provo.
Two years ago in Albuquerque, the 17th-ranked Cougars escaped with a 24-20 win. Brandon Doman's 15-yard TD pass to Andrew Ord with 3:36 left was the game-winner. Doman's 14-yard option keeper on 4th-and-11 from the UNM 29 kept the drive alive.
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. UNM's defense ranked in the top-30 in the nation each of the past three seasons.
BYU finished 5-7 last year, its first losing season since 1973. The Cougars were 2-5 in MWC play. BYU returns 50 lettermen, including 13 starters, five on offense and six on defense.
Head coach Gary Crowton is in his third season in Provo. The 1983 BYU graduate is 39-23 overall, 18-10 with the Cougars. He is 1-1 against the Lobos, 1-0 at University Stadium.
The Cougars have not been shutout in 352 straight games, an NCAA record. BYU was last blanked 20-0 by Arizona State on September 27, 1975.
The BYU defense did not allow a touchdown in its season-opening win over Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets scored on a blocked punt and added two field goals. The Cougars caused five turnovers and limited Tech to 243 yards of offense.
BYU's 2003 schedule features seven teams that played in bowl games last year. Three opponents finished ranked in the top-17 in the nation in 2002.
Bronco Mendenhall's defense has been up to the task so far. The Cougars are allowing just 270 yards a game, 88 on the ground and 182 through the air. They have also forced seven turnovers (three fumbles and four interceptions).
TEXAS TECH RECAP:
The Lobos couldn't overcome four turnovers as the Red Raiders built a 21-point lead and held on for a 42-28 victory. Tech's first touchdown came after a Casey Kelly (Portland, Ore.) interception on a pass that was tipped at the line of scrimmage. It only took the Red Raiders four plays to go 53 yards for their first score.
Pinned deep in their own territory, the Lobos were forced to punt. Wes Welker returned the kick 30 yards and put Tech in business at the Lobo 31. Nine plays later, B.J. Symons found Mickey Peters on an 8-yard scoring pass.
Highlighted by a 50-yard completion from Kelly to WR Dwight Counter (Lancaster, Texas), UNM drove to the Tech 12 where it faced a 3rd-and-7. Kelly threw into coverage and was picked off in the end zone.
Midway through the second period, Lobo TB DonTrell Moore (Roswell, N.M.) was injured at the end of a 10-yard screen pass and did not return to the game.
Following a Lobo punt, Symons led the Red Raiders on an 8-play, 80-yard march that gave the home team a 21-0 lead with 3:48 left before halftime.
The Lobos again moved into Red Raider territory, but TB D.D. Cox (Westminster, Colo.) fumbled at the end of a 7-yard run at the Tech 21. Following an interception by safety Sidney Wiley (Hazelhurst, Miss.), the Lobos got into field goal range but Wes Zunker's (New Braunfels, Texas) 49-yard try hit the left upright on the final play of the second quarter.
The Lobos opened the second half with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive, culminated by Cox's 2-yard plunge.
On Tech's next possession, Wiley sacked Symons, causing a fumble that was recovered by DE D.J. Renteria (Roswell, N.M.) at the UNM 29, however, the Lobos could not advance on the drive.
Tech pushed the lead back to 21 points when Symons found Peters again, this time from 52 yards away.
The Lobo offense really started clicking in the fourth quarter as Kelly led UNM on three straight scoring drives. Cox scored on a 26-yard run, but Tech responded with a 23-yard TD pass from Symons to Nehemiah Glover. A 31-yard strike from Kelly to TE Zack Cresap (Gilbert, Ariz.) cut the margin to 35-21. Following a Tech fumble at the Lobo 33, Cox capped a 7-play drive with a 3-yard dive into the end zone to make it 35-28. The Red Raiders had the answer again as Symons scored from a yard out to end a 10-play drive.
NOTES FROM TEXAS TECH:
Moving the chains was not the problem as UNM totaled 27 first downs and 584 yards of offense against the Red Raiders, the most since registering 620 yards versus Air Force in 2001. New Mexico mustered only 199 yards against Tech last year. The Lobos had 556 yards against Texas State-San Marcos, giving them back-to-back 500-yard performances for the first time since the 1994 season. The 1,140 yards the first two contests are the most in consecutive games since 1,149 yards against New Mexico State (584) and Fresno State (565) in '94.
Subbing for the injured Moore, Cox had a memorable evening. Although his first carry did not come until midway through the second quarter, 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.
Casey Kelly threw for a career-high 349 yards, the most by a Lobo since Graham Leigh tossed for 359 yards against San Diego State in 1998. Kelly also set career-bests for completions (22) and attempts (42).
The Lobos wanted to control the clock - which they did - holding the ball for 38:41 to Tech's 21:19. However, UNM had four turnovers - all committed in Red Raider territory - the most since Kelly threw five interceptions in a loss to Colorado State in 2001.
New Mexico was guilty of a turnover in the red zone for the first time in 13 games, since losing a fumble last year against Baylor. Coming into the Texas Tech game, the Lobos had scored 30 of their past 31 tries inside the opponents' 20-yard line over the last nine games, and 28 of those were TDs.
Safety Sidney Wiley intercepted his second pass of the season. He also caused a fumble on a sack of Tech quarterback B.J. Symons.
Counter has moved into a tie with Keith MaGee (1979-82) for 7th place all-time at UNM with 97 career receptions. Counter is now 8th in career receiving yardage with 1,484 yards.
Despite playing just halfway into the second quarter, DonTrell Moore garnered 38 yards on the ground to move into 22nd place at UNM with 1,281 career rushing yards.
Senior OT Jason Lenzmeier (Frisco, Texas) had a career-high 22 knockdown blocks. His previous best was 18 last year against Wyoming. The honors candidate has a team-high 34 KOs after two games and has yet to allow a sack or commit a penalty.
Senior WR Rashaun Sanders (Los Angeles, California) caught a career-high five passes for 71 yards against the Red Raiders.
MORE ON THE OFFENSE:
It's early, but the Lobo offense looks to have made great strides since last year when it finished 77th in the nation in scoring (24.4 ppg), 102nd in total offense (324.4 ypg) and 104th in passing offense (145.5 ypg).
After two games, UNM ranks 3rd nationally in total offense (570.0 ypg), 4th in scoring (50.0 ppg), 9th in rushing (267.0 ypg) and 16th in passing (303.0 ypg).
Casey Kelly is 24th in total offense, averaging 267 yards a game. He is 33rd in pass efficiency with a rating of 145.48. Kelly is now 12-9 as a starter at New Mexico, which ties Graham Leigh for No. 6 on the career wins list. Current UNM head coach Rocky Long is the all-time leader with 16 victories from 1969-71. Kelly ranks 4th at UNM with 3,977 yards passing, 4th in career completions (322), 5th in TD passes (26) and 6th in career completion percentage (53.5%).
D.D. Cox is averaging 132 rushing yards a game, good for 2nd in the MWC. He is also 2nd in all-purpose yards, averaging 166.5 a game. Utah's Brandon Warfield leads in both categories.
WORDS FROM ROCKY:
(on Texas Tech) -- "We played extremely hard. We had some turnovers that hurt our chances and we blew a couple of defensive assignments that also cost us. You can't have those things happen against a team like Texas Tech and expect to win although I was please with the way we came back in the second half. It's encouraging that we were able to move the ball, but discouraging that we didn't score more points. If we want to win next week (against BYU), then we have to put this game away right now, go on about our business and have a renewed enthusiasm in our mental preparation. I don't think we prepared mentally the way we should have."
(on BYU) -- "It appears that we had similar games last week. We both got off to a slow start, battled back to make it interesting, but just had too much to overcome. BYU is doing mostly the same things on offense. They show a lot of formations and personnel. We have to be better - assignmentwise - than we were last week. Matt Berry looks like he has really improved from last year. I really think the offenses for both teams may have an advantage over the defenses. We run similar defensive styles so the offenses are used to seeing those. It should be an interesting matchup in that regard."