Wyoming Cowboys 38, New Mexico Lobos 31 -- Saturday, War Memorial Stadium
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For the New Mexico Lobos, their trip to Wyoming Cowboys’ country on Saturday featured a lot of perseverance, a courageous comeback, a handful of poise, a few too many mistakes . . .
And too much Cowboy Brett Smith.
"I give Wyoming a lot of credit," said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. "No. 16 (Smith) is a heck of a player."
The Wyoming junior quarterback threw for 247 yards and one touchdown and added 138 yards rushing with his two ground scores coming in the fourth quarter. Smith’s heroics pulled Wyoming out of a 24-24 tie and into a 38-24 lead that the ‘Pokes massaged into a 38-31 Mountain West victory.
"I'm really proud of this team," said Davie. "The way they competed. They way they fought back. The way they got themselves back in the game. I''m really encouraged."
UNM’s Cole Gautsche, who limped off the field late in the fourth quarter, helped set up Smith’s back-breaking score with an interception with 8:53 to play. The Cowboys' leader had just sprinted around Wyoming’s left side to punch the ‘Pokes into a 31-24 lead. The Lobos were trying to answer.
Gautsche forced a pass into Wyoming pressure as he was being pulled down after a scramble out of a collapsing UNM pocket. The football went through one Wyoming defender’s hands, but into another’s grasp.
On Wyoming’s first snap, Smith went around his right side and scampered 48 yards untouched. Wyoming was up 38-24 with 8:53 to play.
The Lobos got a 23-yard TD pass from QB David Vega to Marquis Bundy to pull the Lobos into a 38-31 gap with 1:06 to play, but Wyoming secured the onsides kick and the win.
The Lobos ended the game with three costly turnovers and two of those mistakes helped produce another UNM mistake – giving Wyoming a 21-0 head start on their home field.
The Lobos scratched to a 21-3 halftime count and a Gautsche-fueled Pistol produced that 24-24 tie. Gautsche scored from 49 yards out and Pressley scampered in from eight yards after UNM recovered a Wyoming fumble on a punt.
The Lobos scored 28 second-half points – 14 in each quarter – but Smith came up with big plays to stop the Lobos from pulling the upset on Wyoming’s homecoming. The loss dropped UNM to 2-4, 0-2 MW on the season and Wyoming bumped up to 4-2, 2-0 to stay on pace for a possible bowl invite.
Gautsche tossed for 156 yards and one TD and ran for 113 yards and another score. He went 11-of-21 passing. Smith went 19-of-33 through the air with no interceptions. Wyoming got 116 yards from Shaun Wick and UNM got 104 yards from Kasey Carrier as both teams had two 100-yard rushers.
The Lobos finished with 436 total yards and Wyoming had 532. Wyoming outgained the nation’s No. 1 rushing team (UNM) 285 yards to 257 on the ground. Wyoming had 17 rushing first downs to 14 rushing first downs for the Lobos.
The Lobo received the opening kickoff of the second half and needed to start reaching the scoreboard. They did.
Gautsche’s 49-yard burst by made it 21-10. The Cowboys then made a mistake on a punt with the Lobos recovering a Wyoming fumble on the Wyoming 8-yard line. Pressley scored on UNM’s first carry. The Lobos had scratched to 21-17.
The Cowboys threatened to expand their gap to double digits with a first down on the Lobos’ 1-yard line, but the UNM defense held and the ‘Pokes used a field goal to go up 24-17. That scored carried into the fourth quarter with UNM on a drive.
The drive turned into a 24-all count. UNM went for it on 4th-and-6 at the Wyoming 24-yard line. Gautsche flipped a quick pass out to Carrier on the left flank and he sprinted toward what looked like an easy first down – but nothing else.
However, Carrier lowered his head near the sidelines and a trio of Cowboys did not finish the tackle. One Cowboy defender actually leaped out of Carrier’s path apparently thinking the Lobo had stepped out of bounds. Carrier burst through the brown jerseys and sprinted to the end zone.
The Lobos had scratched out of their 21-0 hole into a 24-24 tie. Wyoming and Smith answered on their next drive with Smith going around the right side of the Lobo defense from three yards out. The Cowboys were back up, 31-24.
Gautsche made his aerial mistake on UNM’s next drive forcing a pass into Wyoming coverage as he was being pulled down. The ball went through one Wyoming defender’s hands but into another Cowboy's hand. On Wyoming’s first snap, Smith went around his right side and scampered 48 yards. Wyoming was up 38-24 with 8:53 to play.
The Lobos shortened the clock even more by not moving on their next possession. Wyoming took over with 6:57 to play. The ‘Pokes were going to be looking for more points, but also were going to punch at the clock. The Cowboys got one first down and then punted away. The Lobos scored behind Vega which formed the 38-31 final.
First Half: Wyoming 21, New Mexico 3
The 21-3 deficit wasn’t really that bad considering the Lobos turned the ball over twice going around their left side and only rolled out 87 yards on the ground. It was likely the Lobos would play more Lobo-like in the second half, but they also needed to slow down Smith and the Cowboys’ offense.
The Cowboys dominated the first quarter both on the scoreboard and on the stat sheet. The Lobos helped out with those two first-quarter fumbles. Wyoming ended the first frame up 14-0 and up 161 total yards to 63 yards for UNM.
The Cowboys held UNM on downs on the Lobos’ final possession of the first quarter and then made it 21-0 early in the second frame. Smith put the ‘Pokes up by three scores on a 26-yard TD pass to Jalen Claiborne, who was wide open inside the five and then juked his way past a too-late Lobo.
The Cowboys threatened to go up 28-0, but a Poke receiver dropped a well-thrown Smith pass in the end zone. The Lobos took over and got a 30-yard field goal from Justus Adams to form the 21-3 count.
The Lobos would receive the kickoff to open the second half and needed to start executing on offense.