The Lobos ran 18 more offense plays and had won the game clock 38:11 to 21:49 in time of possession.
Actually, the Lobos - on offense - did pretty much what they needed to do in order to win their fifth game of the season and stay bowl eligible. Instead, the Lobos fell to 4-7 and with two games remaining cannot reach the seven wins necessary to push into postseason play.
The Lobos play host to Nevada this coming Saturday on Branch Field and then end the season at Colorado State.
The Lobos' Achilles Heel Saturday came as no surprise. They are porous in the secondary and give up too many big plays. The Cowboys and Smith exploited that weakness with scoring passes of 81, 64, 33 and 19 yards.
The Cowboys final score at the 13:23 mark of the fourth quarter was Wyoming's only score from inside the red zone. Wyoming was 8-of-15 on third-down conversions and 1-of-1 in the red zone.
The Lobos, who run primarily an option attack, were 3-of-5 in the red zone, but also got a 52-yard TD pass from Cole Gautsche to Ty Kirk.
"Cole Gautsche is a guy, who if he continues to throw the ball, has some unique skills," said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. "He is big. He is strong. He is really a good option quarterback.
"We gave ourselves a chance to win at the end of the game. I'm really proud of this team."
The Lobos fell into a 21-7 halftime hole and scored 10 points in the third quarter to claw their way to a 21-17 deficit. Smith pushed his Cowboys up 28-17 scrambling to find a wide open Jalen Claiborne in the corner of the end zone.
The Lobos marched again and a 1-yard burst by Kasey Carriermade it 28-23 with 8:59 to play. UNM went for a two-point conversion, but Carrier was stuffed. The Lobos got two more possessions, but failed to reach the end zone.
"They hung in there and fought and gave themselves a chance to win it at the end of the game," said Davie. "We continue to give up the big plays. It's no secret what people try to expose on us."
Gautsche, a true freshman, had a huge game. He ran for 149 yards for an 8.8 average per carry. He went 8-of-15 through the air for 155 yards. Kasey Carrierbroke back into the 100-yard category by rushing for 109 yards on 32 carries.
Linebacker Dallas Bollema led the UNM defense with seven tackles followed by A.J. Butler and Joseph Harriswith five apiece.
"He made some throws," Davie said of Gautsche. "I don't even know who the other freshmen in this league are, but I can't imagine too many freshmen players more deserving to be conference (freshman) player of the year."
The Lobos had a chance to win this game in the fourth quarter. The UNM defense held Wyoming on third-and-three at the Wyoming 43. The Lobos got the ball back at the 6:22 mark needing a touchdown to take the lead. The drive started on the UNM 10.
The Lobos drove to the New Mexico 42, but a dead-ball foul pushed UNM back 15 yards. Looking at a fourth-and-17, the Lobos decided to punt.
"We had to punt the ball there," said Davie. "We had two timeouts left and we did get the ball back. I think we did the right thing in that situation."
The Lobos held Wyoming on downs and got the ball back with 1:40 to play on the Lobo 39. They failed to get a first down and Wyoming took over on downs with 1:22 to play. The `Pokes took a couple of knees and the clock died.
"There were a lot of positives," said Davie. "I'm really excited about where we're going."
First Half:Wyoming 21, New Mexico 7
The Lobos hung with Wyoming statistically in the first half, but again were damaged by big plays. Wyoming's Brett Smith threw scoring passes of 81, 64 and 33 yards. UNM got a 7-yard TD pass from Gautsche to Aho.
"We gave up some grenades in the first half again," said Coach Davie.
The Lobos had the ball for 19:02 of the 30 minutes. UNM had 14 first downs to 11 for Wyoming. Smith tossed for 257 yards and Wyoming added 51 on the ground, 21 coming from Smith. UNM had 150 yards rushing and 97 yards passing. Gautsche was 6-of-10 passing in the half and added 74 yards on the ground. Carrier had 44 yards rushing.
The Lobos returned to their old ways and struck first. It didn't happen in the first quarter. The two teams marched into the second quarter in a 0-0 deadlock. The Lobos reached the board first on a drive that started on their 3-yard line and ended with Gautsche floating a 7-yard pass over the heart of the Cowboys' defense and into the hands of tight end Andrew Aho.
The Lobos' 7-0 lead established at the 12:46 mark didn't last long. Wyoming's Brett Smith found Robert Heron deep over the Lobo middle and Heron blew past the UNM secondary to scamper 81 yards for the score.
Wyoming went up 14-7 on another Smith bomb. He spotted Dominic Rufran on a post route and placed the football on Rufran's fingertips. It was a perfect pass and a great catch. Smith turned the board to 21-7 in Wyoming's favor on a 33-yard pass to Jalen Clairborne, who slipped behind the UNM defense and was open in the end zone.
"We just had a few mental errors in the first half," said UNM's Bollema. "We gave up the big plays and that's what hurts the team."
The Lobos had a chance to cut the gap to 21-10, but missed a field goal in the final seconds. "That field goal miss at the end of the first half really hurt us," said Davie.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com.