December 9, 2003
The New Mexico Lobos make consecutive bowl appearances for the first time in more than a half century when they meet the Oregon State Beavers in the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Eve. Kickoff on Wednesday, December 24, is 4:37 p.m. Pacific Time (5:37 in Albuquerque) from Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. The game will be televised live nationally by ESPN.
* It's deja vu for New Mexico as they make a return engagement to the Las Vegas Bowl. UNM lost to UCLA 27-13 in last year's game played on Christmas Day. This is the 12th Las Vegas Bowl.
* This is the Lobos' eighth bowl appearance since their inaugural showing in the 1939 Sun Bowl in El Paso. UNM is 2-4-1 in bowls and is looking for its first postseason victory since 1961, a 28-12 win over Western Michigan in the one-time-only Aviation Bowl in Dayton, Ohio. The Lobos had a 36-year drought from postseason competition before appearing in the 1997 Insight.com Bowl. UNM lost to Arizona 20-14, on the Wildcats' home field in Tucson.
* The last time New Mexico made consecutive bowl appearances was after the 1945-46 seasons: The Sun Bowl on January 1, 1946 and the Harbor Bowl in San Diego on January 1, 1947.
* UNM has actually been bowl eligible for three consecutive years. The Lobos were 6-5 in 2001, but were not selected to one of the three available bowls affiliated with the Mountain West Conference.
* This is the third meeting between UNM and OSU with each team winning prior games in Albuquerque. The Lobos won 35-16 in 1979 while the Beavers prevailed 28-20 in 2000. Oregon State went on to post an 11-1 record that year, whipping Notre Dame 41-9 in the Fiesta Bowl. The Beavers finished the season ranked No. 4 in the final AP poll. UNM and OSU are slated to meet in Corvallis next Sept. 25.
* New Mexico head coach Rocky Long was Jerry Pettibone's defensive coordinator at Oregon State from 1991-95. Both of Long's daughters - Roxanne and Hannah - graduated from Crescent Valley High School in Corvallis. Long is just the second head coach to lead New Mexico to two bowl games. Willis Barnes guided the Lobos to three bowls in five seasons between 1942-46.
* The Lobos enter the Las Vegas Bowl playing their best football. They are 8-4 overall, and have won three straight and seven of their last eight after a 1-3 start. 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), a game it lost six turnovers.
* Oregon State finished its regular season December 6 with a 52-28 loss at No. 2 Southern Cal. The Beavers are 7-5 overall and were 4-4 in the Pac-10, tying UCLA and Washington for fifth place in the league. OSU has lost its last two games and is 2-4 after a 5-1 beginning.
* New Mexico and Oregon State are two of 11 teams that rank in the top-30 nationally in both total offense and total defense. The others are Clemson, Kansas State, LSU, Memphis, Miami (Ohio), Michigan, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Texas.
* OSU ranks in the top-3 in the Pac-10 in every major offensive and defensive category, except rushing offense, scoring defense and pass efficiency
NEW MEXICO-OREGON STATE TIES APLENTY - In addition to Rocky Long's prior affiliation with Oregon State, Lobo defensive coordinator Osia (OH-say) Lewis is a 1986 graduate of OSU. Lewis was a four-year letterman and a decorated linebacker from 1982-85. A long jumper and standout quarterback and punter at Tucson (Arizona) High School, Lewis played quarterback, safety, linebacker and wide receiver for the Beavers. As a senior in 1985, he was named OSU's Most Inspirational Player, served as team captain and earned All-Pac-10 and honorable mention All-American honors by the Associated Press. Lewis still holds the school record for career fumble recoveries (8) and is tied for the lead in fumble recoveries in a season (4).
* Lewis spent 13 years at OSU either as a student or as a coach. He was a graduate assistant for the football team in 1987-88, then served as linebackers and special teams coach from 1991-96. Rocky Long was the Beavers' defensive coordinator from 1991-95.
* Beavers defensive line coach Greg Newhouse was the Lobos' defensive coordinator and secondary coach under Mike Sheppard in 1990. Newhouse is in his 7th year with OSU.
* The lone Oregonian on the UNM roster is senior QB Casey Kelly, who was born in Portland and graduated from Westview High School in 1999. He was third team all-state as a senior, passing for more than 2000 yards. Kelly was also a third team all-state pick as a pitcher and first baseman. He was selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 32nd round of the 1999 amateur draft. Kelly's father, Rick, was the wide receivers coach at Westview during his son's time there.
* Current Lobo men's basketball coach Ritchie McKay came from Oregon State in April of 2002. McKay posted a 22-37 record in two seasons in Corvallis.
POSTSEASON HONORS ROLL IN - The 2003 All-Mountain West Conference teams and honorees were announced on December 3, as voted by the league's eight head coaches and conference-wide media panel. The University of New Mexico earned a program-best 13 spots on the first and second teams, the most of any school in the conference. UNM had a program-record seven first-team honorees, including four on offense, bettering the previous mark of six first-teamers in 1978. Eight Lobos earned all-MWC honors in 2002, which was previously the most in school history.
* Sophomore RB DonTrell Moore (Roswell, N.M.) was a first-team pick for the second straight year and joined UNLV safety Jamaal Brimmer as the league's only unanimous first-team selections. Senior S Brandon Ratcliff (Dallas, Texas) was also a repeat first-team honoree.
* Moore was named Offensive Player of the Year by collegefootballnews.com.
* New Mexico's "Hitmen" dominated the offensive line with senior OT Jason Lenzmeier (Frisco, Texas), junior OG Claude Terrell (LaMarque, Texas) and sophomore C Ryan Cook (Albuquerque, N.M.), a former walk-on, all earning first-team honors for the first time in their careers. Center Brandon Turner was the last Lobo lineman to make the first team in 1996. The three first-teamers on the offensive line are the most for UNM since 1971. Moore and the three linemen are the most first-team offense selections for the Lobos in 32 years when OT John Urban, OG Tom Walker, C Tom Klein and QB Rocky Long earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference honors.
* Joining Ratcliff on defense are senior defensive lineman D.J. Renteria (Roswell, N.M.), who earned first-team honors for the first time in his career. Junior K Wes Zunker (New Braunfels, Texas) earned all-MWC accolades for the first time, joining Vladimir Borombozin (2001) as the second UNM kicker to earn first-team honors under Rocky Long.
* Six Lobos were named to the all-MWC second team, including five on defense. Senior defensive ends Zach Rupp (Pleasant Grove, Utah) and Daniel Kegler (Frostproof, Florida), and senior linebackers Daniel Gawronski (Marshville, N.C.) and Billy Strother (Evansville, Indiana) represented the nation's fourth-ranked run defense, while sophomore CB Gabriel Fulbright (DeSoto, Texas) was also a second-team selection. Senior WR Dwight Counter (Lancaster, Texas), who led the MWC in yards per catch, was a second-team offensive selection for the first time. Counter earned second-team honors last year as a punt returner.
* UNM also had three honorable mention all-MWC selections in senior QB Casey Kelly (Portland, Ore.), junior LB Nick Speegle (Albuquerque, N.M.) and senior S Sidney Wiley (Hazelhurst, Mississippi). Speegle earned honorable mention accolades for the second straight year, while Kelly and Wiley were honored for the first time in their careers. Including honorable mention, nine defensive Lobos were given postseason recognition.
QUICK HITS - 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, 7-7 in 2002 and now 8-4 in 2003.
* While winning seven of its last eight encounters, UNM put together the school's first four-game winning streak since a 6-0 start in 1997. New Mexico completed its first unbeaten October (3-0) since the 1959 team went 5-0. UNM is 9-3 in November games the past three years, going 3-1 each season.
* New Mexico went undefeated in conference road games (3-0) for the first time since a 4-0 mark in 1982. The Lobos are 5-1 in their last six road games against MWC competition.
* After no wins over teams with winning records for nearly two years from the middle of the 2001 season to this year, three of the Lobos' last four victories came against teams with winning records: Utah, Colorado State and Air Force.
* New Mexico has won eight games for only the eighth time in 105 years of football. Nine-wins have come to UNM only three other times: 1964 (9-2), 1982 (10-1) and 1997 (9-4).
* A win in the Las Vegas Bowl would give head coach Rocky Long his 34th win at New Mexico, moving him into third place on the school's list. Long is 33-39 in his sixth year, tied with current Texas A&M head man Dennis Franchione, who went 33-36 from 1992-97. Roy Johnson is the all-time leader at 41-32-6 from 1920-30. Bill Weeks was 40-41-1 from 1960-67.
* The triumph over Colorado State on November 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).
* Sophomore DonTrell Moore has run for a school-record 1,438 yards in 2003. He has also established New Mexico season records for rushing attempts (266), rushing TDs (19), overall TDs scored (21), points (126), 100-yard rushing games (9) and consecutive 100-yard games (5), which is current heading into the Las Vegas Bowl. He has the career mark with 32 rushing TDs. Moore ranks fourth all-time at UNM with 2,572 career yards on the ground. Moore is 1st in the MWC in rushing (119.8 ypg), all-purpose yards (134.8 ypg) and scoring (10.5 ppg), and has scored the second-most TDs (21) in NCAA Div. I-A this season.
* School records for single-game attendance (44,075 for New Mexico State), season attendance (245,891) and average attendance (35,127) were all set in 2003. The previous standards for total attendance (187,608) and average attendance (31,268) were set in 2001.