Was this a defensive battle or just an ugly game? By running the ball 48 times for a total of 132 yards while completing four out of twelve passes for 104 yards, New Mexico managed to win their most important game of the season against a Utah State team that sat atop the Mountain West - Mountain standings prior to yesterday's 14-13 result. Incredibly, the Lobos won despite going two for fourteen on third downs and being penalized seven times for 67 yards. However, a win is a win, and with this one, New Mexico proved to their fans and themselves that they could win a game with defensive stops rather than simply outscoring their opponents.
The Utah State Aggies did not fare much better in this contest: they put up a total of 294 yards, but were unable to establish a running game (they ran for a total of 78 yards). Aggies quarterback Kent Myers was perhaps the most impressive player in this game for USU, going 13 of 24 for 213 yards and a touchdown on a brisk fall day that featured 24 mph winds.
UNM's success can be attributed to a few players who deserve mention here. Running back Teriyon Gipson led New Mexico's running attack with 18 carries for 86 yards and continues to be the Lobos most consistent threat. Lamar Jordan, who did not play in UNM's last game, connected with wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson for an 86-yard touchdown pass up the sideline for their only score in the first half (giving UNM the 7-3 lead at half).
Finally, senior David Anaya showed his special teams prowess when he forced a fumble that led to a short Richard McQuarley touchdown run in the third (and a 14-3 lead) and recovered a fumble on a botched Carlos Wiggins kickoff return in the fourth that would have given the Aggies great field position.
Two turnovers stunted Utah State's comeback, particularly a Damion Hobbs fumble on the New Mexico 19 with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Still, they had a chance to win at the end of the game. Utah State took their nine play, 41 yard drive to the UNM 24 yard line with less than a minute remaining. Aggie kicker Brock Warren, who was already two for two on the day and who hadn't missed an attempt all season, lined up for a 41 yard attempt. But as his kick sailed right of the upright, Lobo nation let out a collective howl. A bowl game is in sight, and the possibility to win their division still exists.
Utah State will look to rebound against a tough Air Force opponent next week while New Mexico will look for magic win number six against a formidable Boise State team.