Stevens: New Mexico Lobos Fall To Nevada 31-24
Nov. 17, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West - Branch Field
Saturday: Nevada Wolf Pack 31, New Mexico Lobos 24
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
He stood in the back of the New Mexico postgame media room looking somewhat out of place much like he does on the football field - until the ball is snapped.
Lobo Matt Raymer stands 5-foot-9 - maybe - and weights in around 185. His frame looks more suited for Milne Stadium or maybe Wilson - again, until the ball is snapped.
Then you see how much he belongs. Then you can see how important heart and pride are to the game of football.
Saturday afternoon on Branch Field in New Mexico's 31-24 Mountain West loss to the Nevada Wolf Pack, Raymer was easily one of the best players on the field - and maybe, on this day, the best Lobo.
His stat line was unreal. It was Brian Urlacher or Carmen Messina or Houston Ross.
The former walk-on from Albuquerque's Manzano High had nine solo tackles, three assists, 12 total, two tackles for a loss, a forced fumble, a breakup, and one sack. Raymer had two tackles in 2011 -- for the whole season.
The Mountain West might have its defensive player of the week.
When Raymer, a defensive back, took his turn at the postgame podium, Lobo Coach Bob Davie said, "How about this guy. This sucker right here is as tough as I've been around."
A lot of Lobos were tough Saturday on Branch Field. Safety Freddy Young matched Raymer with a team-high 12 tackles. Linebacker Dallas Bollema had nine tackles and a huge interception of Nevada's Cody Fajardo.
Bollema returned that pick 37 yards to hand UNM the ball at the Nevada 14-yard line with 5:35 to play. It was like a rainbow cracking through a storm cloud.
UNM was down 31-24. The Lobos had their chance, but three plays later an exchange went sour between quarterback Cole Gautsche and running back Crusoe Gongbay. The ball ended up on the ground - and in Nevada's hands.
"Cole is trying to pull it (back). Crusoe is trying to keep it," said Davie.
That pretty much ended it. Raymer gave the Lobos a ray of hope by forcing a fumble on that final Nevada drive, but Nevada marched from their 13-yard line to New Mexico's 9-yard line before the Wolf Pack took a knee to burn down the clock.
The final four Lobo tackles were made by Raymer (twice), Bollema and Young.
"It's frustrating," said Raymer. "You are never happy after a loss - ever."
Again, it was a Mountain West game the Lobos could have won. "That's four Mountain West games where we've had the ball to win it or tie it on basically the last possession of the game," said Davie.
"We've come a long ways, but we haven't come far enough to win these kinds of games."
The Lobos went up 7-0 and 14-7 marching almost at will against the Wolf Pack defense. UNM's first drive went 75 yards in three plays and 1:16 minutes. Gautsche scored from 20 yards out.
UNM's second drive went 69 yards in nine plays with Gautsche scoring from the three. The Lobos, now 4-8 and 1-6 MW, would score only one touchdown the rest of the way.
Nevada took a 21-17 lead into the half, scored ten points in the second quarter and held off the Lobos. UNM got a two-yard scoring burst from Jhurell Pressley in the third to form a 24-24 tie, but Nevada pulled into the final count of 31-24 on a 2-yard pass from Fajardo to Brandon Wimberly.
The Nevada defense bent a lot to the Lobos, but came up with a huge 4th-and-one stop on Gautsche at the 10:39 mark of the fourth quarter. The Wolf Pack also got a huge punt that pinned UNM on its two-yard line at the 8:23 mark of the fourth quarter.
Nevada held UNM, forcing a punt that turned into Bollema's interception. UNM missed the opportunity to tie or take the lead after the fumble credited to Gongbay.
The Lobos rushed for a solid 352 yards, but Nevada nudged UNM with 358 rushing yards. The Wolf Pack added 133 passing yards and UNM had no yards passing and no completions. Gautsche and UNM were 0-for-2 on the day.
Nevada had 22 first downs to UNM's 14 and totaled 491 yards to 352. The Wolf Pack (7-4, 4-3 MW) ran 77 plays to UNM's 52 and only lost the time-of-possession battle by 40 seconds: 30:20 for UNM and 29:40 for Nevada.
Nevada averaged 7.2 yard per carry and UNM averaged 7.0. Nevada had a 6.4 average per play and UNM was at 6.8 yards per play.
"What we are is good enough, if we play perfect," said Davie. "The same things (big plays) got us beat. We cannot seem to get it solved."
The Lobos have one last chance to solve it in 2012. New Mexico finishes the season this coming Saturday at Colorado State. UNM's Kasey Carrier needs 41 yards to surpass DonTrell Moore's single-season mark. Carrier, who had 145 yards vs. Nevada, has 1,410 on the season. Against Nevada, he averaged 8.1 yards per carry with a long run of 76 yards.
Carrier might have been the best running back on the field Saturday. Nevada's Stephan Jefferson had 128 yards for a 5.6 average. However, the best runner on the day was Nevada's Fajardo, who ran for a career-high 186 yards for a 9.3 average. Fajardo also threw for three touchdowns.
The Mountain West might have its offensive player of the week, too.
"It was a pretty good chess match out there," said Davie. "This was a high level of Xs and Os."
Still, the Lobos were playing this game with a handicap. To use the chess analogy, the Lobos didn't/couldn't use their Queen. They didn't/couldn't pass. Nevada - finally - caught on to this and made some adjustments.
"The moved their front a little bit and did some different things on our motions," said Davie. "Sometimes on first down, they stoned us a little bit and we got behind the chains on first down. If it's second-and-ten, we're in a bit of trouble."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.