The New Mexico Lobos lost in thrilling, dramatic and record-breaking fashion Saturday, but they lost nevertheless.
And they lost to an opponent from the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, something that’s not supposed to happen to a Football Bowl Subdivision team.
But it did.
Sam Houston State’s Tim Flanders scored on a 4-yard run in overtime, his fifth touchdown of the game, giving the Bearkats a 48-45 victory over New Mexico at University Stadium.
An announced crowd of 16,313, UNM’s smallest in almost 19 years, was treated to a wildly entertaining game but not to the victory the fans were hoping for — and that the Lobos program desperately needed.
The Lobos are 0-4 on the season, 2-26 in the tenure of head coach Mike Locksley. Sam Houston State is 3-0. The Bearkats play in the FCS, a rung lower than the FBS, in which the Lobos play.
Offensive fireworks abounded. Freshman wide receiver Deon Long put his name in the UNM record book with 378 all-purpose yards. He caught three touchdown passes, including a 20-yarder that sent the game to overtime, and returned the opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown.
Junior quarterback B.R. Holbrook threw for 289 yards and two touchdowns after entering the game late in the third quarter.
But for Locksley, the grit and flair his team displayed in a remarkable fourth-quarter comeback was little consolation.
“Good teams play no matter what,” Locksley said, noting the repeated defensive lapses that allowed the Bearkats 373 yards rushing and that twice had the Lobos down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
“We’re not there yet.”
The Lobos had the ball first in overtime. On third down from the Sam Houston State 4-yard line, running back James Wright couldn’t handle a Holbrook pass at the goal line.
Locksley chose to go for a field goal, and James Aho’s kick was good from 21 yards. But that left the door open for Sam Houston State.
The Bearkats took full advantage.
The Lobos had appeared to be done when Flanders bolted 53 yards for a touchdown to give the Bearkats a 42-28 lead with 7:33 left in the game.
But Holbrook, who had brought the Lobos back to 35-28 by engineering a seven-play, 80-yard drive, again was up to the task in relief of struggling starter Tarean Austin.
First, Holbrook took UNM 80 yards in six plays. Crusoe Gongbay got the touchdown from 1 yard out, making the score 42-35.
The New Mexico defense, using all three of the Lobos’ second-half times out, then forced a punt and got Holbrook the ball at the UNM 20 with 2:59 left.
Holbrook drove UNM 80 yards in 12 plays. He converted a fourth-and-1 on a 9-yard pass to Michael Scarlett, hit Quintell Solomon tip-toeing the west sideline for 23, then found Long alone in the end zone from 20 yards.
Then, in overtime, the magic disappeared.
“There’s a whole lot of factors,” Holbrook said of the Lobos’ performance. “We’re gonna have to watch the tape and figure it out from there.”
The game was tied, 21-21, at halftime.
After Long’s touchdown return of the opening kickoff, the Bearkats dominated the first quarter and led 14-7.
Long tied the game at 14 on a 25-yard touchdown reception and did so again at 21 on a 54-yard catch — both from Austin.
But in the third quarter, the Bearkats recovered an Austin fumble and drove 44 yards for a go-ahead touchdown.
Two touchdown runs by Flanders, one from 2 yards out and one of 53 yards, were sandwiched around a 19-yard scoring pass from Holbrook to Michael Scarlett. That put Sam Houston State ahead 42-28, setting up a furious finish — and, for the Lobos, an empty feeling.
“Bottom line, we didn’t get it done on either end,” said senior safety Bubba Forrest, who led the Lobos with 12 tackles. “… We just need to address it one game at a time, starting with (New Mexico State.)”
The Aggies come to University Stadium next Saturday.
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal
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