Last week I said that New Mexico's win over Utah State was the most important game of the season. To avoid sounding like a broken record, I will now say that UNM's , 31-24, win over the Broncos is the most important in the Bob Davie-era.
This victory over Boise State is proof that Davie is building an improving and stable program in Albuquerque which will inevitably lead to better recruits and more respect around the nation. The Lobos are eligible for a bowl game for the first time in eight years. Moreover, New Mexico is no longer an easy win. On the other hand, New Mexico can play upsetter. And upsetter is what they played last night.
This was a game for the ages. There were times when it seemed like neither team wanted to win the game. There were times when it seemed like the referees did not want the game to end. But despite the referees, Boise State's second-half surge, and themselves, New Mexico became just the fifth team since 1999 to escape Boise as victors.
Boise State's first half was disastrous. In their first five possessions they marched inside New Mexico's 35 yard line. For all of that trouble, they came away with three total points.
Brett Rypien (41/75 for 506 yards, 2 TDs and 3 INTs) threw an interception within the 5-yard line to Ryan Langford with 12:40 in the first quarter, kicker Tyler Raussa missed a 22-yard chip shot but then Raussa then redeemed himself with a 32 yard field goal at the beginning of the second quarter.
Jeremy McNichols (26 carries for 128 yards, 1 TD) fumbled the ball within the five after Boise State had just converted on a gutsy fourth down (the fumble was recovered by defensive hero Langford), and with 3:41 left in the second quarter Boise State when for it again on fourth down (this time from the 32 yard line), but was unsuccessful.
UNM's defense was able to pressure Rypien often and that caused him to make some bad decisions. However, if you believe in luck, it was certainly on the Lobos' side in the first half.
During all of Boise State's first half miscues, UNM was able to string together a couple of big plays to give them the lead. With 3:52 left in the first quarter, Jhurell Pressley (9 rushes, 132 yards) took it to the house on a 74 yard run up the sideline where he missed many Bronco tacklers. Fans clamored that he stepped out of bounds, but the referees were unable to find conclusive evidence that he did. This gave the Lobos an early 7-0 victory.
In the second quarter, Pressley lit up the Broncos for another 40 yard run to advance the cherry and silver to Boise State's 30 yard line. Lamar Jordan (1/1 for 46 yards and 6 carries for 7 yards), who would later leave the game with an injury, rushed for a 19 yard touchdown out of the triple option to give the Lobos a 14-3 lead. They were unable to add to that in the first half as Apodaca threw a terrible interception in the Red Zone. However, he would have a chance to redeem himself later.
Rypien opened up the third with another interception, this time to Markel Byrd (the other defensive hero of the night) who returned it to BSU's 22 yard line. with 13:21 left in the third. UNM was unable to move the ball much on the ensuing drive (a theme that would frighten Lobo nation in the second half), but kicker Zack Rogers extended the lead to 17-3 with a 33 yard field goal.
New Mexico's lead felt suddenly less secure when the Broncos responded with a quick march down the field led by wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck (20 receptions for 281 yards). It was McNichols who rushed it in from 25 yards out as Boise closed the gap to 17-10 with 9:50 left in the third.
The crowd suddenly came alive and after a quick three and out by the Lobos, the tides seemed to be turning in the Broncos' favor. Feeling the momentum on his team's side, coach Bryan Harsin called for a successful fake punt on fourth down to keep the Broncos' drive alive. But UNM's defense reestablished itself on the very next set of downs and would force Boise State into a punt.
The Lobos' defense, coming off last week's strong performance against Utah State, made big plays when they needed to last night and should hold their heads high with this victory.
UNM's drive stalled on the next possession. Apodaca (8/12 for 172 yards, 1 INT) connected with Teriyon Gipson (10 rushes for 31 yards, 1 catch for 42) on a 42 yard strke to put UNM on BSU's 33 yard line. Yet two plays later, the young quarterback had another mistake - this time a lost fumble.
This would allow Boise State to open the fourth quarter with a quick 18 yard touch down pass to McNichols to tie it up on third down. New Mexico took over with 14:48 left in the fourth quarter. Their offense had failed to produce much in the second half, and at times, their strategy seemed to be to just hold on.
On 2nd and 17, Apodaca threw an 81 yard bomb to Delane Hart-Johnson (1 catch, 81 yards) that set up UNM on the 2. Richard McQuarley (2 rushes, 2 yards) punched it in up the middle and the Lobos regained the lead 24-17 with 13:44 left. A Cranston Jones interception on BSU's next drive led to Teriyon Gipson walking into the end zone on a seven yard flip out of the option. With 12:09 left in the 4th, UNM took a 31-17 lead.
For the sake of wrapping this up, the Broncos finally answered with 2:16 left in the fourth with a touchdown pass to tight end Jake Roh. They got the ball again with 1:17 left in the game and after a horrific pass interference call on 4th and 21, followed by a valid personal foul on UNM on the penultimate play as they delayed the Broncos from getting the ball off. The game would have ended there if not for that penalty.
The Bromcos had one last chance from their own 40. Rypien connected with Sperbeck who made the lateral to Austin Cotrell. Cotrell found a seam to run. Time had already expired, but the Broncos had blockers set up. Cotrell looked like he could score, and he had one Lobo defender left to beat. Yet Markell Byrd was that defender and he made a great tackle on the UNM 3 yard line! Game over.
This game was truly unbelievable. BSU had 40 first downs to UNM's 11 and 641 total yards to UNM's 413. The Lobos were 0/10 on third down.
It seems almost improbable that UNM won. But Boise State was its own worst enemy tonight and the Lobos made plays when they had to. Kudos to the defense, who was quick shaky at the beginning of the season, for stringing together a couple of solid games.
New Mexico is back in Albuquerque this week to take on Colorado State (5-5). Boise State will host division-leading Air Force (7-3) on the smurf turf. As the Lobos still have a chance at winning the division, they will be rooting for the Broncos.