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2007 New Mexico Bowl Preview

Nevada (6-6, 4-4; WAC) vs. New Mexico (8-4, 5-3; Mountain West)

December 22, 2007 @ 4:30 PM (EST) – ESPN – University Stadium – Albuquerque, NM

 

These two programs have not met since 1942 and there will certainly not be a 0-0 tie this time around.

Nevada is making a school-record third bowl appearance in as many seasons under hall of fame coach Chris Ault. Ault, who is in the fourth year of his third stint in Reno, has compiled a 185-78-1 mark in 22 seasons as a head coach. He ranks fifth in wins and 15th in winning percentage (.707) among active coaches.

The Wolf Pack has essentially been two different teams this season. After opening the year with a 52-10 beating at the hands of a mediocre Nebraska team, it struggled to a 2-3 start. However, Nevada—needing to win four of its last six to attain bowl eligible status—was able to do just that when the Wolf Pack hammered Louisiana Tech 49-10 in the season finale’. It was assured of a bid when Hawaii completed its perfect regular season by beating Washington and received the subsequent Sugar Bowl invite. The 4-3 conclusion to the campaign featured three losses by a combined seven points (69-67 4OT @ Boise State, 28-26 to Hawaii, and 27-24 @ San Jose State).



Nevada’s “Pistol Offense” is producing 488.9 yards (7 th nationally) and 36.2 points (3rd in the WAC) per game. It is centered around a rushing attack that yields 225.8 yards per contest and is led by the conference’s leading rusher in Luke Lippincott (115 ypg). Lippincott is also a threat as a receiver as he showed with 112 yards versus Louisiana Tech.

The change of Ault’s club was largely cultivated by the forced involvement of redshirt freshman quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick, whose performance won him WAC Freshman of the Year honors, is a very dangerous dual threat. The 6’6 signal-caller may remind avid football fans of current Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver and former Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones. He has rushed for 567 yards (6.1 ypc) while completing 55.6 percent of his 216 passes for 2,038 yards and 19 touchdowns (compared to only three interceptions). In his first start, Kaepernick burst onto the scene by amassing 177 yards on the ground versus Boise State before a national television audience.

The Wolf Pack’s top two targets in the passing game are wide receiver Marko Mitchell and Hula Bowl bound tight end Adam Bishop. Mitchell has 1,033 yards and averages 22 yards per catch while Bishop hauled in 14 receptions—seven of which were touchdowns.

Former star quarterback Rocky Long took over the New Mexico program prior to the 1998 season. He has guided the Lobos to their fourth bowl since 2002 and they will be playing their extra game in their home stadium for a second consecutive season. Despite their recent run of success, UNM is still searching for its first bowl win since 1961 and only the school’s second nine-win season in the last quarter century.

The Lobos improved on last year’s mark by playing solid defense and defending their home turf. They rank 23 rd nationally—allowing only 20.6 points and 329 yards per game—and that number is even more impressive when you consider they’ve done it despite registering the second fewest sacks in the WAC. UNM has a 5-1 mark at University Stadium.

Despite eight wins, Long’s club’s bowl fate boiled down to two Big 12 teams participating in the BCS—which sent TCU to the Houston Bowl rather than to Albuquerque.

The most impressive accomplishment was perhaps the 29-27 victory at PAC-10 foe Arizona.

The Lobos’ offensive attack has had its moments, but has struggled lately—largely due to turnovers and drops the passing game. The unit puts up 24.8 points and 357 yards per game.

Quarterback Donovan Porterie has connected on 58.6 percent of his 382 attempts en route to throwing for 2,652 yards and 13 scores (versus eight picks).

When Porterie puts it in the air, it is likely headed to either Marcus Smith or Travis Brown. Smith has 86 catches for 1,039 yards, but only three touchdowns. Brown has 69 receptions totaling 911 yards and five scores.

New Mexico has shown that it can slow down a high-octane offense, as it limited UTEP to ten points in the season opener on the road. However, the Wolf Pack will present new challenges and have been hitting on all cylinders of late. The Lobos have struggled against some of the better teams on their schedule and they’ll need to play one of their best games of the year to capture that elusive bowl victory. They must limit the turnovers and run the ball versus a suspect, but improving Nevada run defense (172.6 ypg) to keep it close. If they do, they have All-American place kicker John Sullivan—who is 26-of-29 and has made all nine from beyond 40 yards—at their disposal to kick a potential game winner.

 

Nevada 31 - New Mexico 23

 

by Thomas "Bubba" Rosenbaum
CollegeSports-fans.com Guest Writer

 


 


 

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