New Mexico Lobos 42, UTEP Miners 35
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was a game of inches, a game of a final half inch, but also a game of lots of yards, lots of comebacks and lots of drama.
It was a game of gut checks and playmaking and all that stuff was pretty much equal until the New Mexico Lobos and the UTEP Miners marched into overtime and UNM’s defense won the game by an inch.
Maybe half an inch.
The Lobos took the lead in overtime as Kasey Carrier took a third-down run 21 yards off the right side of New Mexico’s dominating line and pushed UNM up 42-35. That score held – but barely.
The Miners, like they had done most of the evening - -and like the Lobos had done, too – came roaring back.
UTEP then took its turn in overtime, starting from the 25-yard line, and powered to the New Mexico 4-yard line where the Miners faced a fourth-and one. They handed the ball to Nathan Jeffery, who was smashed down by Lobo David Orvick for a short gain.
But did Jeffery get the full yard?
The chains came out and the two teams watched the measurement that Lobos later said favored them by less than an inch. The Lobos celebrated, but there was a hold-your-breath timeout as the ball placement was reviewed.
The ruling on the field was not changed. The Lobos celebrated a second time.
“I knew they didn’t make it,” said Orvick, who was credited with a solo tackle on the stop, but a lot of the credit for this stop has to go to Rashad Rainey,who knived through the UTEP line and got enough of Jeffery's left ankle to spin him around. Jeffery was going down before Orvick got to him, but Orvick made sure that Jeffery did not squirm for that extra inch.
It was a close measurement.
“I looked across (at the chains). I looked down (at the ball)," said Orvick. "It took me a second, but I did my own measurement. Right where they spotted the ball is right where I tackled him.
"I wasn’t concerned, but you want to hear them say it.”
Said Lobo Coach Bob Davie: “We made one more stop than they made. That’s good enough for me right now.”
The win in the Sun Bowl handed the Lobos their first win of the 2013 season to bump their season’s slate to 1-1. They head to Pittsburgh this coming Saturday. The win on Texas soil was huge and snapped a 15-game UNM losing streak in games played in the Lone Star State.
The win also came on the road in one of those 50-50 type games that teams like New Mexico – and UTEP – need to win and can’t really afford to lose. The Miners dropped to 0-1.
It was one of those last-man-standing type games as these two teams took turns making plays and gaining an edge on the scoreboard. Really, this game might not have ended if a defense hadn’t stepped up and made a play.
It was the Lobo defense that stepped up.
UTEP took a 28-21 lead into the fourth quarter despite having the ball for only 3:31 in the third quarter. The Lobos went up 35-28 on a 17-yard run by Mitchem with 7:47 to play, but UTEP marched 70 yards to form a 35-35 tie with 1:19 to play. The Miners overcame a 10-yard holding penalty on that drive that took away a score.
The Lobos used a 40-yard pass from Mitchem to Jhurell Presley to place the ball at the UTEP 39. UNM lost a shot at a last-second field goal attempt when Mitchem was sacked on third down for a 13-yard loss to the UTEP 49.
The teams then marched into overtime.
“I think we’re building something on defense,” said Davie. “Our offense kept the ball away from them. We knew if we could get a couple of stops, we could win it. They probably felt the same thing.”
The Lobos kicked out 395 yards on the ground with Carrier racing for 291 yards. The Lobos averaged 6.9 yards per carry. “Our offense was back to where our offense was last year,” said Davie. “It was a great football game, no question about that.”
Said Carrier: “Running the ball is what we do.”
The Miners were pretty good on the ground, too. UTEP got 127 yards from Aaron Jones, who averaged 11.5 yards per carry and UTEP ended with 280 yards for an average of 6.1 yards per carry.
The Miners added 119 yards passing to total 399 in total offense while UNM had 88 yards through the air for their staggering 483-yard total.
Jameill Showers had a solid outing in his first game as a Miner going 15-of-20 through the air and stabbed UNM’s defense with a single aerial touchdown. Clayton Mitchem went 4-of-7 for the Lobos and added 51 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Carrier had four TDs rushing.
“We have to throw it a little more,” said Davie. “It shouldn’t be quite as hard to throw it as we make it.”
The Lobos’ ground game helped them control the clock with 31:56 in possession time to 28:04 for UTEP. “Fortunately our offense was able to move the ball like we’ve been accustomed to our offense being able to move the ball,” said Davie. “It takes a bunch of guys to run for (395) yards.”
The Lobos had a single turnovers and UTEP did not cough up the ball. It was a clean game with UNM being flagged three times and UTEP four times – two on their first offensive series.
The Lobos went into the half locked in a 21-21 tie with the Miners, who scored 21 second-quarter points to form the tie. UTEP had came back from deficits of 7-0, 14-7 and 21-14. Davie said he didn’t talk much about plays or stats at halftime, but told his Lobos: “What we have to go do is win a game, somehow. Find a way.”
The Lobo did find a way. It took them more than that usual 60 minutes, but at the end of it all, when Lobos were dancing in the center of the Sun Bowl, no Lobos seemed to mind having to put in a few extra minutes.