The Texas State Bobcats had but one job to do Saturday night – stop the New Mexico Lobos from running the ball. But TSU proved not to be up to the task surrendering 361 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns as UNM crushed their way to a 35-14 loss before 22,135 at Branch Field at University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M.
As has been their pattern so far this season, the Lobos rarely engaged their passing game, preferring to pound the ball on the ground. How rarely? Try three passing attempts for the game. UNM would attempt three passes and complete one in the first quarter then ran the ball 54 consecutive times after their lass pass attempt in the first quarter.
"We rushed for 200 yards in the first half and I think they had 21 plays in the first half," said UNM head coach Bob Davie. "We gave up two big plays in the first half. This was something that we hadn't work on but that was a great play call, a really good scheme.
"But again it was all about the turnovers and the kicking game and no self-inflicted wounds - win upfront.," Davie continued. "It's pretty impressive when you can rush for 200 yards on mostly dives in the first half."
Junior Kasey Carrier finished with 191 yards on 23 carries and four touchdowns while freshmen Jhurell Pressley and Cole Gautsche added 80 and 82 yards respectively. Presley also ran for a touchdown in the game for New Mexico, which closed the non-conference part of its schedule 3-3.
Conversely, Texas State (2-3) abandoned the run to try to pass on the supposedly weak Lobo secondary. Quarterbacks Shaun Rutherford managed 186 yards on 16-of-21 passing with two touchdown passes and the Bobcat offense got 216 of its 248 total offense yards from the pass. But three interceptions and a pair of fumbles doomed TSU.
UNM’s Dallas Bollema forced a fumble by Andy Erickson of Texas State on a kickoff following New Mexico’s first touchdown in the first quarter to set up a second touchdown drive for UNM, giving the Lobos an early 14-0 lead.
Then the Lobos’ Destry Berry intercepted Rutherford’s first pass of the second half to set up UNM’s final touchdown drive. The drive was caped by a 43-yard touchdown run by Carrier on 4th-and-1 early in the third to put the Lobos up for good at 35-14.
"To be able to shut this team out in the second half is pretty impressive," said Davie. "I do think our defense in the second half starting to feel good about themselves and got better as the game went on."
A critical fourth down call by the Bobcats set up New Mexico’s third touchdown in the first quarter. On 4th-and-1 on their own 40-yard line, Texas State tried a fake punt, but punter Zach Robinson’s pass to Blake McCulloch was knocked down by UNM’s Jacon Greer.
New Mexico scored nine plays later on a 1-yard run by Pressley to put the Lobos up 21-7.
The Lobos, who are 0-1 in Mountain West Conference play, now travel to the islands to play the Hawaii Warriors, who are 0-2 in the MWC after a 52-14 loss last night to the San Diego State Aztecs. The three wins this season equal the win total for the past three years.
"It means a lot (to be 3-3)," said Carrier, who averaged 8.3 yards per carry Saturday. "It's never really happened for me since I've been here. A lot of the guys here, it's been tough, and now things are starting to turn around."
The 3-3 start has some talking about a bowl game, which Davie tried to downplay.
"Please, please," said Davie. "Let's not get carried away. We're scratching and clawing for everything we can get. We really are.
"But for us to have three wins right now in early October, I couldn't be more proud of this coaching staff and this football team," he said. "Those guys deserve all the credit in the world. That (win) was pretty good. I could not be more proud of the toughness, the buying in. It's exciting to watch and I appreciate the effort of these guys."