San Jose State's second play of the game was an impressive 71 yard run by Tyler Ervin who ran up the middle of the New Mexico defense untouched. He would continue running on the Lobos all night long. The slim and quick do-all back would go off for 263 yards on 36 carries and the New Mexico defense, led by Kimmie Carson, never found a way to stop him.
Though they were up one point 14-7 in the second quarter, New Mexico's offense came to a screeching halt after the Spartans blocked a field goal attempt. San Jose State, on the other hand, featured a balanced attack by getting wide receiver Hansell Wilson and tight end Billy Freeman involved too. Freeman, for example, scored a momentum-shifting touchdown with 18 seconds left in the first half on quite possibly the most wide open out and go route in the history of Mountain West football, giving SJSU a halftime lead of 21-14.
Indeed, at halftime the Spartans had accumulated 292 total yards of offense to New Mexico's 175. 116 of those 292 were passing yards, while the Lobos only had five.
The second half was more of the same as the Spartans continued their offensive attack. San Jose State's quarterback Kenny Potter showed off his athleticism on more than one occasion by scrambling for positive yards when it looked like he would surely be sacked.
One such scramble resulted in a stunning 13 yard touchdown run with 3:05 left in the third quarter that put SJSU up 28-14. New Mexico, after doing nothing in the third quarter, would try to make a comeback in the fourth, but couldn't come from behind. Ultimately, the Spartans' offense was varied enough that it kept the short-handed Lobos' defense on their toes all night and consistently capitalized on lapses.
For New Mexico, it appears that the Austin Apodaca era has begun. Apodaca earned his first career start in a Lobo jersey last night after his impressive two minute, game-winning touchdown drive against Hawaii on October 24. Davie must've seen something in Apodaca during practice this past week to award him the starting job and re-igniting the dual quarterback debate that Lamar Jordan seemingly silenced earlier in the season. Apodaca played a decent game, showing that he can be a threat in the option as a runner in addition to his passing capabilities. Apodaca ran the ball 12 times for 59 yards and threw 8/20 for 130 yards and an interception.
However, some questions persist: Apodaca only threw the ball three times in the first half. If Jordan is the superior runner and Apodaca the superior thrower, wouldn't Davie vary up the offense to allow Apodaca more throwing opportunities in the first half? If Davie is going to continue to run the ball in such an unbalanced attack (most of Apodaca's throws came in the second half when the Lobos were behind and trying to score quickly), wouldn't Jordan, the team's leading rusher, be the logical choice at quarterback?
I am not suggesting that the Lobos completely revamp their offense, but if the coach is going to insert a passing quarterback, it seems to me that the coach should implement a few more passing plays to add that dimension to the offense.
Apodaca made some great throws, including a beautiful cross body pass to Carlos Wiggins towards the end of the third quarter that kept a drive alive. However, he was also inconsistent, often rushing easy passes that could have led to positive yards. Nerves clearly played a role in Apodaca's game. Teriyon Gipson put forth another solid contest for UNM, rushing for 99 yards (including a 79 yard touchdown run on the cherry-and-silver's second drive of the game. He also caught a timely 44 yard pass in the fourth quarter that eventually led to a Jhurell Pressley touchdown run up the middle, giving New Mexico hope in the fourth quarter.
However, it was all for naught. SJSU's offense was too powerful and UNM's defense could not get significant stops. Both teams needed a win tonight, and Ervin powered the Spartans to victory.
Both teams have four games left on the schedule and one wonders if either will pull out the magic six wins to reach a bowl game. This was an important game for the Lobos, as their remaining schedule is difficult: Utah State, Boise State, Colorado State, and Air Force. The Spartans might have an easier path to six with games against BYU, Nevada, Hawaii, and Boise State. Can either team collect two more wins?