Sept. 24, 2011
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was a game with a few fairytale subplots, filled with several Lobo heroes whom almost created a happy ending. But the final page and the final score were both cruel and nightmarish for all New Mexico Lobos.
Lobo junior B.R. Holbrook came off the bench to shoulder a dramatic rally and twice pull UNM out of fourth-quarter, 14-point holes only to see Sam Houston State gut out a 48-45 win in overtime. UNM trailed 42-28 with 7:33 left in the fourth quarter and 35-21 with 12:03 to play.
Holbrook, who lost his starting job this season to sophomore Tarean Austin, completed 19-of-30 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns - all coming in the second half.
Holbrook tossed a 20-yard scoring pass to Deon Long with 27 seconds to play that pulled New Mexico into a 42-all tie and marched the two teams into overtime.
Sam Houston State won the OT toss and elected to defend the North end zone. UNM's drive stalled at the 4-yard line and the Lobos settled for a 21-yard field goal by James Aho.
"B.R. played well. He kept us in the game," said Lobo Coach Mike Locksley. "I thought we showed a little resilience for the first time this season where we fought back from being down. And B.R. was the guy who was out there."
The Bearkats offense then began its OT charge at the UNM 25-yard line and ripped through the New Mexico defense in four plays. The Bearkats' Tim Flanders took an option pitch and walked around the right corner of the UNM defense from four yards out. It was probably fitting that the Kats scored their winning drive on the ground. They tore through the UNM defense for 373 yards rushing off 60 attempts.
It also was fitting - and maybe expected - that Flanders was the Bearkat who scored the game-winning touchdown. He ran for 194 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 6.5 yards per carry.
The loss dropped the Lobos to 0-4 on the season and put a sour note on a night in which several Lobos had outstanding games. You start that list with Holbrook and Long, but these Lobos were not alone in their exceptional efforts.
Ty Kirk was a money receiver for UNM all night and ended with 13 receptions for 127 yards. Long ended the game with 209 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He also returned the opening kickoff 98 yards to hand UNM a quick 7-0 lead. Long ended with 165 return yards on kickoffs.
Long's 378 all-purpose yards set a UNM record as well as a Mountain West Conference record.
The Lobo defense was challenged by a precise and disciplined Bearkats' running attack that ran at UNM out of multiple looks. One of those looks - the option - also had great success vs. the UNM defense.
Sam Houston State added 174 passing yards to its 373 on the ground to end with a 546 total on offense. UNM was right there with 528 yards in total offense - 434 in the air and 94 on the ground. The Lobos only had 26 yards from their backfield duo of James Wright and Crusoe Gongbay.
Austin played well early for the Lobos and before being pulled by Locksley, the talented sophomore completed 13-of-22 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Austin hit Long on a 25-yard scoring pass and a 54-yard scoring pass in the second quarter.
Coach Locksley made no excuses for the loss to Sam Houston State. He said he told his players it "was unacceptable to lose that game. "We have to look really deep within ourselves this upcoming week," he said. "We have a tough game against a state rival."
The Aggies visit University Stadium at 6 p.m. Saturday. NMSU has a two-game win streak over the Lobos.
"It's going to challenge us," Locksley said of dropping to 0-4 on the season. "We lost at home to a team we were better than and this will challenge us. Nobody is going to hold their heads down. We'll see what kind of team we are."
The Bearkats came into the game allowing 42 yards per game on the ground and featuring a blitz package designed to put pressure on the quarterback. UNM's game plan was to hurt the Bearkats' defense with big plays on offense. The Lobos got a number of big plays, but also gave up too many big plays to Sam Houston State on defense. The Lobos also had few answers for the Bearkats' running game.
Sam Houston State won the time of possession battle 36:22 to 23:38. However, the Lobos' lost that clock battle with several big-strike plays. UNM scored TDs on plays of 98 yards (kickoff), 25 yards, 54 Yards, 19 yards and 20 yards. Flanders had scoring runs of 61 and 53 yards for Sam Houston State.