The New Mexico Lobos had another big game on the ground but lack of a passing attack and a late mistake doomed UNM to a 31-24 loss to the visiting Nevada Wolf Pack Saturday afternoon before 17,290 at Branch Field at University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M.
Cody Fajardo threw three touchdown passes and ran for a career-high 186 yards for the Wolf Pack, which ended a three-game losing streak. New Mexico (4-8, 1-6 Mountain West) finished with 352 yards on the ground but didn’t complete a single pass for the game
"Well you guys saw it - we are what we are and what we are is good enough if we play perfect, but the same things got us beat," said UNM head coach Bob Davie. " Giving up the big plays on defense, you just can't win. I've never been around it where you just can't get it solved, and we just cannot seem to get it solved."
Fajardo, who finished 18 of 27 with one interception, hit receiver Brandon Wimberly on a two-yard TD pass with 4 minutes left in the third quarter for what proved to be the winning score for Nevada (7-4, 4-3).
Trailing 31-24, the Lobos had a chance to tie it late in the fourth quarter after linebacker Dallas Bollema intercepted a Fajardo pass and returned it 37 yards to the Nevada 14 yard line. But on third-and-7 from the 11, UNM’s Crusoe Gongbay fumbled and the Wolf Pack’s Wolf Jordan Hanson recovered with 4:17 left. The Wolf Pack then ran out the clock with four first downs to claim the win.
"Again, right there at the end we had a situation - what is that now? – four Mountain West games that we've had the ball either to win it or tie it on basically the last possession of the game," said Davie. "But as I told the team, we control that. It's giving up big plays on defense. It's a couple of mistakes on offense.
"The last play, you know, the fumble where Cole (Gautsche) is trying to pull it and Crusoe (Gongbay) is trying to pull it and we fumble the ball on the third down," said Davie. "You'd just like to see what would have happened there."
The Lobos (4-8, 1-6), who have lost five straight, got 72 rushing yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Cole Gautsche, but he didn't complete any passes.
In a duel between two of the top running backs in the country, UNM Kasey Carrier out did Nevada’s Stefphon Jefferson, gaining 145 yards on 18 carriers compared to Jefferson’s 128 yards on 23 carries. Jefferson scored one touchdown, a 1-yard run that tied the game at 7-7 in the first quarter.
Fajardo ended up 319 yards of total offense, rushing for 186 yards on 20 carries for the Wolf Pack.
UNM led three times in the first half, it’s last lead coming on a 42-yard field goal by Justus Adams to give the Lobos their last lead at 17-14 with 8 minutes left in the second quarter. But Fajardo drove Nevada to touchdown on their next possession to take a 21-17 halftime lead.
After a Nevada field goal early in the third quarter gave the Wolf Pack a 24-17 lead UNM pulled even with a 2-yard TD run by Jherell Pressley at the 9:55 mark of the third quarter to tie the score at 24-24. But UNM would not score again.
"That’s a really a good offensive team," said Davie. "That's the eighth-ranked offensive team in the country. They're good. They have a good quarterback, good tailback, a good tight end that's about 6-foot-7 and big tall wide receivers. But, same thing. We're giving up big plays and no matter how hard you play, no matter how much effort you give, no matter how much chemistry you have, how much discipline you have, if you don't execute on defense and you give up plays you can't win."