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Lobos, Nationally-Ranked Utes Collide in Salt Lake City
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  10/20/2003
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Oct. 20, 2003

Two of the hottest teams in the Mountain West Conference do battle Saturday afternoon as the New Mexico Lobos meet the league-leading and 23rd-ranked Utah Utes. Kickoff is 1:05 p.m. Mountain Time from Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. ESPN+Plus will televise the game live with KRQE-TV in Albuquerque providing local coverage. The telecast will also be available nationally through ESPN's GamePlan service. New Mexico has won three straight while the Utes have captured five in a row.

The Lobos are 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the MWC after registering their biggest win ever at San Diego State, 30-7. It's New Mexico's largest margin of victory on the road since a 40-10 decision at TCU in 1997. UNM seeks its first four-game winning streak since a 6-0 start to the 1997 season. New Mexico is now 10-4 in October games since 1999. UNM was 2-2 in conference road games last season, winning at UNLV and BYU with losses at Air Force (in overtime) and Colorado State.

There are five games remaining in the regular season. The Lobos went 4-1 in their last five games in 2001 and in '02. The lone loss each year was to Colorado State.

Utah is 6-1 overall and atop the MWC standings at 3-0 following a 28-10 victory at UNLV. The Utes have won five in a row for the first time since a seven-game run in 1996. Ranked No. 23 in this week's coaches' poll, Utah is off to its best start since the 1999 team also began 6-1. Utah was picked to finish fifth in the MWC preseason poll. The Utes have allowed just 29 points and 905 yards in their last three games.

Saturday's game matches the top-two defenses - scoringwise - in the league. New Mexico ranks 1st, allowing 16.3 points. Utah is close behind at 17.4. The Lobos also boast the nation's 5th-best defense against the run at 74.1 yards a game. UNM has yielded just 93 yards rushing the past two games. Utah has the league's top rusher, Brandon Warfield, at 118.4 a game.

This weekend's game will also mark the 28-year anniversary of the last time New Mexico defeated a ranked team on the road. On Oct. 25, 1975, UNM upset No. 13 Arizona 44-34, in Tucson. The Wildcats were 5-0 going into the game. UNM was 2-4.

Utah sophomore QB Alex Smith has attempted 139 consecutive passes without throwing an interception, including 138 attempts in six games this season. The Lobos tied a school record with five interceptions last week at San Diego State. Smith ranks seventh in the nation in pass efficiency at 162.28. He is an impressive 97 of 138 (70.3%) for 1,197 yards with eight TDs.

Lobo senior WR Dwight Counter (Lancaster, Texas) has seven catches for 207 yards in two career games against Utah. Included in that total are TD receptions of 80 and 47 yards.

It was a whirlwind weekend for UNM senior OT Justin Colburn (Westminster, Colo.). Colburn recorded a team-high 15 knockdown blocks in the Lobos' 30-7 victory at San Diego State. The team arrived back in Albuquerque at 3 a.m. A few hours later, Colburn boarded a plane for Denver where he and high school sweetheart Marcie Leininger (LINE-in-gur) were married Sunday in the couple's hometown of Westminster. Fellow teammate Jason Lenzmeier accompanied Colburn on the trip. Lenzmeier and the Colburns were expected back in Albuquerque Monday. Honeymoon plans are pending.

The combined record of the three teams UNM has lost to is 14-8. Washington State (6-1) is ranked No. 6 in this week's coaches' poll. Texas Tech is 5-2, BYU 3-5.

THE UTAH SERIES -

New Mexico and Utah meet for the 45th time. The Utes have a 28-14-2 overall lead in a series that began in the 1939 Sun Bowl in El Paso. Utah won the initial meeting 26-0.

The Utes have a commanding 16-3-1 advantage in Salt Lake City and they have won three straight and nine of the past 10. The Lobos' last win there was 42-35 in 1993. Utah won 37-16 two years ago in Salt Lake. The series is tied at two wins apiece in MWC games.

The two teams played a real dandy last year in Albuquerque. It was the Lobos coming out on top in double overtime, 42-35. UNM scored with 46 seconds left in regulation to send it into overtime. Both teams scored TDs in the first OT. UNM scored on its first possession of the second OT then held the Utes on downs to win the thriller. Lobo TB DonTrell Moore rushed 26 times for 163 yards. Utah QB Brett Elliott was 26 of 39 for 440 yards and four TDs. UNM ran seven plays in overtime, all on the ground.

UTAH NOTES -

Utah finished 5-6 in 2002, including a tie for fifth in the the MWC at 3-4. Four of the Utes' losses were by a touchdown or less. The Utes return 38 lettermen, including 11 starters, six on offense and five on defense.

Head coach Urban Meyer is in his first season at Utah. He holds an impressive 23-7 mark in his third season as a head coach, including a 17-6 ledger in two seasons at Bowling Green. The 1986 Cincinnati graduate is facing the Lobos for the first time.

Utah has some big-time performers at the skill positions. Alex Smith is now 5-0 as the starter for the Utes and ranks 7th in the nation in pass efficiency. Senior TB Brandon Warfield is the league's top rusher and Paris Warren is 1st in the MWC in receiving at 7.5 catches a game. Bo Nagahi is the top kickoff return average in the league at 25.2 yards per return.

Utah leads the MWC in time of possession, controlling the clock for an average of 34:09 per game. The Utes are 2nd in turnover margin at +8.

UNM VS. RANKED TEAMS -

UNM has lost eight straight games to ranked opponents, three times to BYU, twice to Colorado State and once to Texas Tech, North Carolina State and Washington State. The last win over a ranked foe was against Utah. On Nov. 5, 1994, Dennis Franchione's Lobos knocked off the Utes 23-21, in a homecoming game at University Stadium. The Utes came into the game 8-0 and ranked 9th in the nation.

Oct. 28, 1995 No. 22 Texas Tech 34, UNM 7 Albuquerque
Sept. 21, 1996 No. 25 BYU 17, UNM 14 Provo
Dec. 6, 1997 No. 20 Colorado State 41, UNM 13 Las Vegas
Oct. 16, 1999 No. 20 BYU 31, UNM 7 Albuquerque
Oct. 13, 2001 No. 17 BYU 24, UNM 20 Albuquerque
Aug. 24, 2002 No. 25 North Carolina State 34, UNM 14 Raleigh, N.C.
Nov. 23, 2002 No. 20 Colorado State 22, UNM 14 Fort Collins, Colo.
Sept. 20, 2003 No. 24 Washington State 23, UNM 13 Pullman, Wash.

SAN DIEGO STATE RECAP -

New Mexico tied a school record by intercepting five passes - three by sophomore CB Gabriel Fulbright (DeSoto, Texas) in the end zone - and Billy Strother (Evansville, Ind.) returned a blocked punt for a TD in the 30-7 triumph at San Diego State.

The Lobos won despite being outgained 393-326. Turnovers and special teams play led directly to 20 of UNM's points. The Aztces entered the Lobo red zone six times and came away with just one TD. The other results were three interceptions, a missed field and a turnover on downs.

San Diego State marched inside the Lobo 10 on its opening drive of the game, but missed a 23-yard FG. A Brandon Ratcliff (Dallas, Texas) interception put UNM in great shape at the SDSU 19 and DonTrell Moore (Roswell, N.M.) scored five plays later from the 2 and a 7-0 lead.

The Aztecs got to the Lobo 6 on their next drive, but Fulbright ended the threat with his first interception on a slant route.

The first quarter stats showed the Lobos with one first down and just 23 yards of offense while the Aztecs produced seven first downs and 172 total yards.

In the second quarter, sophomore Hank Baskett (Clovis, N.M.) blocked Seth Santoro's punt. Strother picked up the loose ball and scored from the 14 to give UNM a 14-0 lead. The Aztecs answered with their only score of the night, going 64 yards in 10 plays. The Lobos got a big lift right before halftime. With less than a minute remaining in the half, Ratcliff returned a pooch kickoff to the 44 then QB Casey Kelly (Portland, Ore.) connected with WR Dwight Counter (Lancaster, Texas) on a 23-yard pass. That set up a 48-yard FG by K Wes Zunker (New Braunfels, Texas) to give UNM a 17-7 lead at the break. Statistically, SDSU had a huge advantage at halftime with 274 yards of total offense to UNM's 103. The Lobos only had three first downs in the first half.

UNM really put it away on the opening drive of the second half, mounting a 73-yard drive that ended in Moore's 3-yard run. The key play was Moore's career-long 45-yard run on a 2nd-and-24 from the Lobo 13. He looked to be stopped twice on the play, but kept churning. UNM added two more FGs by Zunker and forced four more turnovers.

After having the ball for just 10:19 of the first half, UNM controlled the clock for 19:50 after halftime. The Lobos generated 223 yards of offense in the third and fourth quarters, while holding SDSU to just 119.

NOTES FROM SAN DIEGO STATE -

New Mexico has won four straight at Qualcomm Stadium while the 23-point win is the Lobos' largest ever in San Diego. In Rocky Long's tenure at UNM, the Lobos have now won seven straight games following a regularly-scheduled bye week.

Casey Kelly improved to 15-11 as a starter and is now is tied with Stan Quintana (1963-65) and Stoney Case (1991-94) for second on the all-time wins list. Kelly will tie his head coach - Rocky Long - for the top spot with UNM's next win. Rocky Long had 16 victories from 1969-71.

The three interceptions by Fulbright are the most by a Lobo since Sharay Fields set the single-game record of four against New Mexico State in 1979. The only other Lobos with three picks in a game are Chuck Roberts vs. Montana in 1959, Eddie Stokes vs. Montana in 1963 and Jay Morrison vs. San Jose State in 1969. Fulbright also added a career-high six tackles.

UNM forced six turnovers (5 interceptions, 1 fumble) against San Diego State, the most since Hawaii lost six fumbles in 1994. New Mexico has caused 14 turnovers (7 fumbles, 7 interceptions) in its past three games after gaining just six in the first four games of the season. The Lobos are now a +7 in turnover margin for the season. UNM is 4-0 this season when it wins the turnover battle.

Aztecs QB Adam Hall completed 18 of 30 passes for 238 yards and two interceptions in the first half, but was just 7 of 18 for 53 yards and two more interceptions after halftime.

DonTrell Moore finished with 89 yards on just 15 carries, including a career-long 45-yard run that set up the Lobos' opening TD of the second half. He scored twice, giving him 11 TDs on the season, which leads the MWC. Moore has four 100-yard rushing games this season and eight for his career. The season record for 100-yard games is six held by Mike Williams (1976), Winslow Oliver (1992) and Lennox Gordon (1996). Moore has surpassed 100 yards in his last five home games. The Roswell native is averaging 124 yards in his past seven home games and also has 16 TDs in that span. He tied a career-high for the second week in a row with 30 carries against Utah State. Moore is now 15th on the UNM all-time rushing list with 1,740 yards. He ranks 4th all-time at New Mexico with 24 rushing TDs and 5th with 26 total TDs.

Senior LB Daniel Gawronski (Marshville, N.C.) had 8 tackles, including a 6-yard sack. He also broke up a pass and caused a fumble.

UNM blocked its first punt of the season and now has 12 redirects since the start of the 2000 season. Four of those blocks have been returned for TDs.

In addition to the blocked punt, Hank Baskett caught two passes for a career-high 41 yards.

Junior LB Nick Speegle (Albuquerque) had one of UNM's five interceptions, which he returned 23 yards to set up a Lobo FG. Speegle also had seven tackles, including two for losses.

Junior TB D.D. Cox (Westminster, Colo.) rushed for 68 yards on 15 carries, his best effort since gaining 187 yards at Texas Tech. Cox, troubled by an ankle sprain since that game against Tech, had gained just 46 yards on 17 carries in his last three games.

Wes Zunker connected on all three of his FG attempts (48, 32, 21) and has now made six in a row since a miss at Texas Tech. He is 6 of 7 on the season. The Lobos hit just 5 of 10 FGs in 2002. UNM had not made more than one FG in a game since Matt Goldstein converted three last year against Baylor. Zunker has connected on his last three tries from 40 yards or longer.

Dwight Counter caught two passes for a team-high 49 yards. He is 7th all-time at UNM with 108 catches and 7th with 1,715 yards. Counter's 11 TDs rank tied for 8th all-time at New Mexico. He is averaging an amazing 39.6 yards (11-436) per TD reception during his Lobo career. Counter recorded the fourth 100-yard game of his career against Utah State with four catches for 106 yards, including a 39-yard TD pass.

OFFENSE NOTES -

Just beyond the halfway point of the season, the Lobos are putting up offensive numbers not seen in a while. UNM is averaging 29.7 points a game, 2nd-best in the MWC and the most since the 1997 team averaged 32.5. The total offense average of 381.0 yards ranks 4th in the league and would be the most productive by a Rocky Long team as well, besting the 2001 average of 376.8 ypg. UNM averaged 403.9 yards in 1997.

New Mexico is outscoring its opponents 106-35 in the third (54-18) and fourth (52-17) quarters. During the three-game winning streak, the scoring after halftime is 40-3 in the Lobos' favor.

Casey Kelly ranks 3rd at UNM in career completions (377), 4th with 4,747 yards passing, tied for 4th in TD passes (28) and 6th in career completion percentage (53.1%).

Kelly threw for a career-high 349 yards at Texas Tech, 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).

DonTrell Moore became the sixth Lobo to score at least four rushing TDs in a single game against Texas State. Reginal Johnson tallied five against Tulsa in 1996. Four other Lobos scored four via the run, including Rocky Long against Utah in 1971.

Hank Baskett has 11 career receptions, four of those going for TDs.

Subbing for the injured Moore, D.D. Cox had a memorable evening at Texas Tech. Although his first carry did not come until midway through the second quarter when Moore was sidelined, 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.

Under Rocky Long, the Lobos are 14-5 when rushing for 200 yards or more and 12-3 when exceeding 225 yards. The losses came against Colorado State (254 yards) in 1999, Utah State (263 yards) in 2002 and Texas Tech (235) this season.* Senior WR Adrian Boyd (Flint, Mich.) recorded career-highs with 8 receptions for 100 yards at Washington State. He's the first UNM receiver to gain at least 100 yards since Dwight Counter had 100 last year against Utah.

UNM totaled 584 yards of offense against Texas Tech, the most since registering 620 yards versus Air Force in 2001. 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.

New Mexico gained just 228 yards of total offense in the 24-17 win against New Mexico State. The last time a Lobo team had fewer yards and won was three years ago, also against New Mexico State. UNM managed 168 yards in a 16-13 victory over the Aggies in Las Cruces in 2000.

Dwight Counter's 40-yard run in the first quarter against Texas State was a career long. He finished with a career-high 192 all-purpose yards (40 rushing, 65 on punt returns, 87 receiving).

DEFENSE DATA -

The Lobos are allowing 16.3 points a game, 1st in the MWC and 17th nationally. The last time a New Mexico team allowed fewer points for an entire season was 8.2 in 1964. The best under Rocky Long is 20.8 in 2000.

New Mexico has not allowed a point in the second half the past two games. In the past three games, New Mexico has allowed just three points after halftime, a field goal by New Mexico State. The total is only 14 points in the past four games: 11 by Washington State and 3 by New Mexico State.

UNM has been even stingier in the fourth quarter, giving up just a New Mexico State FG over the past five games. The last TD scored on UNM in the fourth quarter was by Texas Tech on Sept. 6.

The Lobos have won 12 straight games when taking a lead into the fourth quarter. The last loss was to BYU in 2001. UNM led 13-10, but lost 24-20 to the 17th-ranked Cougars.

New Mexico is allowing a league-best 74.1 rushing yards a game, good for 5th nationally. UNM has yielded just 93 yards rushing in its past two games. Since stats became official in 1946, only once has a Lobo team held opponents under 100 yards rushing for an entire season. The 2001 defensive unit allowed 87.4 yards a game to finish No. 5 in the NCAA final stats.

The Lobos have allowed just three rushing TDs through the first seven games, the fewest in the MWC.

New Mexico has at least one sack in 20 straight games. The most recent sack-free game was last year's season opener at North Carolina State.

UNM had a season-high five sacks of Washington State QB Matt Kegel, who had been dumped just three times in three prior games against Idaho, Notre Dame and Colorado.

UNM is T2nd in the MWC with 20 sacks. BYU has 22 followed by the Lobos and San Diego State. The Lobos led the league in sacks every year from 2000-02.

Only seven backs have eclipsed 100 yards rushing against UNM since the start of the 2000 season, a span of 44 games: Oregon State's Ken Simonton (184) and UNLV's Jeremi Rudolph (106) in 2000, Utah's Dameon Hunter (177) in 2001, Air Force's Leotis Palmer (125), New Mexico State's Paul Dombrowski (136) and Colorado State's Bradlee Van Pelt (106) in 2002 and BYU's Reynaldo Brathwaite (169) this season.

Only three times in the past 41 games has an opponent reached 200 yards on the ground. It's been 62 games since UNM allowed 300 rushing yards. San Diego State churned for 349 yards in 1998.

WORDS FROM ROCKY -

(on San Diego State) -- "I thought the first half was one of our worst halves this season. We couldn't move the ball and our pass coverage was not very good. We corrected those flaws in the second half. We played good defense in the red zone, denying them several scoring opportunities. I thought the blocked punt was one of the big plays in the game because we had not done anything to that point. Winning the turnover battle is a key every game. We did put together a couple of nice drives in the second half, which helped us control the clock."

(on Utah) --"By all accounts, we will be facing the best team in the league Saturday. It's hard to argue with that since they are nationally ranked, and have won five in a row with a couple of solid victories over two Pac-10 schools. This game will be just like our previous ones with Utah. It will match two teams that are very physical and who like to control the line of scrimmage. Whoever wins that battle and holds onto the football stands a good chance of winning. I think we are playing okay right now, although I hope our best football is ahead of us. This will be quite a challenge. I believe we will be up for it."

Friday, September 26
6:00 PM - 
Football
vs. Fresno State
Saturday, October 04
1:30 PM - 
Football
at UTSA
Friday, October 10
7:30 PM - 
Football
vs. San Diego State
Saturday, October 18
1:30 PM - 
Football
at Air Force
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