Stevens: Fresno State Rallies From 21-0 Hole to Beat Lobos 49-32

Oct. 27, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West Conference - vs Fresno State Bulldogs

Fresno State 49, New Mexico 32 -- Branch Field

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

OK, give Fresno State some credit. They crawled out of a 21-point hole and beat the New Mexico Lobos 49-32 Saturday on Branch Field.

And maybe the Bulldogs would have won this Mountain West tussle anyway. They are good. Quarterback Derek Carr is exceptional. The Bulldog receivers are special. There is a lot of talent on the Fresno defense.

"That is a very, very talented football team," said Lobo Coach Bob Davie. "They came back. They were on the road and they came roaring back and they beat us."

But the Lobos (4-5, 1-3) didn't deserve to lose this way. They didn't deserve to lose with Cole Gautsche (neck) and B.R. Holbrook (shoulder) damaged on the UNM bench.

The football fates don't have to be this cruel - to Lobo players, to Lobo coaches who, with limited personnel, scratch out plays and schemes good enough to win games. Even in losses, the turnaround on this team is inspirational.

There were two Lobo teams on Branch Field Saturday. There were the Gautsche-Holbrook led Lobos that slapped Fresno into a 21-0 hole that could have been deeper.

This Lobo team rolled out 268 yards rushing in the first half. This Lobo team scored points, established field position, burned time off the clock. These are all elements this Lobo team needs to have.

Kasey Carrier had 116 yards at the half and became the first Lobo since 2008 to have a 1,000-yard season - with four games to play.

And then there was the Lobo team without Gautsche and Holbrook - and without center Dillon Farrell, who also missed the second half. This Lobo team was the one that Fresno beat - and beat good.

It was a tale of two Lobo teams and a tale of two halves.

Fresno State came out of the locker room down 24-14 and left the third quarter up 35-24. Sure, it was the same Lobo defense that played Fresno tough in the first half, but it also was a different Lobo defense. Give Fresno credit. They wore down that UNM defense a bit. They figured some things out.

But was the deflated air that seemed to be circling in University Stadium contagious? "A little bit," said linebacker Joe Stoner.

The University Stadium crowd went flat. The Lobos went into the half up by 10 and into the fourth quarter down by 11. It had to be disheartening.

"We really couldn't stop them in the second half," said Davie.

The third quarter was huge. Fresno State had 220 yards in the third quarter to 10 yards for the Lobos. UNM had 295 total yards at the half and 305 at the end of three. The Lobos had no first downs in the third quarter.

The Bulldogs put the game away on their first possession of the fourth quarter. They went up 42-24. Another score at the 6:06 mark on the clock made it 49-24. The Lobos got a nice drive and score from a Quinton McCown led offense. McCown threw his first TD pass as a Lobo on a 19-yard strike to Lamaar Thomas.

"We have a lot of adversity right now," said Davie. "We have to find a way to win. That's all it is. Whatever it is. But I'm not disappointed at all. I'm not discouraged at all. I'm proud of this team and I love this team and I love these guys."

The Bulldogs got the balance they seek. Carr went 31-of-44 for 416 yards and four scores passing. Robbie Rouse did his thing on the ground with 120 yards on 18 carries. Fresno State finished with 600 yards on offense with 26 first downs.

The Lobos had 394 yards in offense with 349 on the ground. Crusoe Gongbay had 72, Gautsche had 50 on three carries and Jeric Magnant had 45 on a single tote. Fresno ended with 26 first downs to 16 for the Lobos - seven in the second half, all in the fourth quarter.

First Half: New Mexico 24, Fresno State 14

The Lobos' option was superb - again - in the first half and ended with 268 yards. Kasey Carrier had 116 and was over 1,000 on the year. The bad news for UNM in that half was Cole Gautsche went to the bench damaged and H.R. Holbrook, who UNM preferred not to play, was called to emergency duty. Holbrook injured his shoulder late in the second quarter and McCown took over the UNM huddle.

First Quarter: New Mexico Lobos 14, Fresno State 0

The Lobos threw out the perfect combination against the favored Fresno Bulldogs. The Lobos were good. The Lobo also added a little good fortune.

UNM opened the game with a 65-yard drive highlighted by a 45-yard end-around by Jeric Magnant. That placed the Lobos on the Fresno 12-yard line and Carrier ended the drive from eight yards out. Justus Adams made the kick and UNM was up 7-0. It was an impressive drive.

Fresno State didn't do much in the first quarter, but did create a turnover on a Cole Gautsche fumble while the Lobo freshman was running the option. Gautsche wobbled his way to the UNM sidelines. Fresno did nothing with that possession as a bullet pass by Fresno State's Carr hit his receiver in the head - and UNM got a break.

The ball deflected straight to UNM's Joe Stoner, who ran straight into the Bulldogs' end zone - 40 yards. UNM carried a 14-0 lead into the second quarter.

The Lobo option rolled nicely in the first 15 minutes and totaled 140 yards on the ground. Gautsche, who was replaced by Holbrook, had 50 yards. Magnant had his 45 yards, Carrier added 25, and Holbrook had 16. . Fresno had 89 total yards and converted one of five third downs to UNM's three of four conversion rate.

Second Quarter: New Mexico 24, Fresno state 14

The Lobos continued to dominate -- early.

The Lobos scored on their first possession of the second quarter - a drive that started with one play in the first quarter. The big runs were 16 yards by Holbrook, 20 by Carrier and Carrier finished it with a 30-yard scoring run. UNM was up 21-0 after Adams' kick.

A fake punt almost brought the Lobos more points. UNM had the ball at the 50 and was in punt formation. The snap went to Crusoe Gongbay instead of Ben Skaer. Gongbay scampered around the right side for 30 yards.

That set up UNM with a first-and-10 at the Fresno State 20. UNM came close to the end zone as a Holbrook pass just skidded off Ty Kirk's hands inside the five. UNM had to settle for a 40-yard field goal attempt by Adams that was pushed wide to the left of the North goal posts.

Fresno came out and looked like the Bulldogs from their press clippings. They quickly marched to the South with Carr completing five of five passes. He ended it with a floating pass to the Southwest corner that 6-foot-6 Victor Dean pulled down over 5-11 Destry Berry. The `Dogs were finally on the board: 21-7.

The Lobos had a golden opportunity to score on Fresno's next possession. Carr threw quickly to his right and hit UNM's Berry in the chest. Berry had nothing but air between him and the Fresno end zone, but bobbled away the opportunity.

UNM's turn. On a possession that began with 6:11 to play, Carrier went 57 yards on his first touch and UNM had a first down at the Fresno 16. Holbrook optioned around the left side of the UNM line and was tackled at the Bulldogs' one. However, there were two 15-yard penalties called - one on UNM and one on Fresno - and the play was nullified.

Holbrook went the other way and gained five, but was hammered and stayed down holding his shoulder. He joined Gautsche on the bench and McCown took the snap. Fresno held and UNM settled for an Adams' 27-yard field goal and a 24-7 lead.

Fresno got the ball with 3:14 to play on their 28-yard line. They ended the drive 10 plays and 72 yards later in the UNM end zone. The final play was a 7-yard pass from Carr to Davante Adams. That 24-14 count went into the halftime locker rooms.

Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at rstevens50@comcast.net.