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College football: Lobos, Urlacher, Oxford

In a faraway land called Logan, Utah, on a soggy day a long time ago, the Lobos of New Mexico played a football game against the Utah State Aggies.

The Lobos won that game 25-22, slugging and slogging their way up and down the field.

It was a test of toughness and the Lobos passed. It eventually led to a bowl game, the school’s first in decades.

On a much dryer but breezy Saturday afternoon, the Lobos faced Utah State again. Vegas had the Aggies winning by a couple of touchdowns. Local followers of the program suggested a worse beating.

But by the time the sun had slipped behind University Stadium, UNM had conquered Utah State by the slimmest of margins, 14-13.

More surprising than the win was how it was recorded.

Defense. Yes, a sighting of that rare beast in Loboland.

This was the same Utah State team that smoked a ranked Boise State team for 52 points.

This was the program that UNM coach Bob Davie acknowledged had swatted his team like a bunch of gnats a couple of short years ago.

This was a UNM team that disappointed against Tulsa, Nevada and San Jose State. This was a team that got lucky against Hawaii.

And there was a bit of fortune on Saturday. Utah State missed a field goal. It recovered a fumble only to have it somehow end up in the belly of Lobo David Anaya.

The football gods smiled on UNM, Davie acknowledged, but it wasn’t a fluke.

“I think we deserved it, don’t you?” Davie asked a news conference inquisitor.

Better technique is the reason for the turnaround, Lobo Dakota Cox offered.

But there was toughness, too. In the fourth quarter when Anaya saw the ball slip from kick returner Carlos Wiggins’ hands, he raced from the other side of the field and threw himself into the scrum. As a senior, he felt obligated to make a play.

With their fifth win of the season, and the most surprising outcome of the Davie era, the Lobos remain in bowl contention.

In that long ago 1997 night in Logan, the Lobos had a youngster named Brian Urlacher just learning his trade. He made eight tackles in his customary role off the bench as UNM persevered  despite five turnovers. That night was less about skill and more about will.

Urlacher could be spotted at University Stadium on Saturday, visiting the place with his name on the building and perhaps bringing a little fortune with him. Apparently permission was required before those in the media could approach the former Lobo — and, alas, I apparently did not have such permission.

But if I could have, I would have asked him if he remembered that drizzly night. I would have asked him how you take a big win and turn it into a signature victory.

My guess the answer is simply to win again.

The Broncos of Boise State await later this week in Idaho. They will be big favorites to beat the Lobos. The Lobos hung with them last year, but could not overcome a booth official’s error and their own lack of knowledge of how to win games they were not supposed to. Did Saturday change that?

Perhaps more important than what happened Saturday will be what happens next.

RANKINGS: The committee likes Clemson best, so the Tigers are in. Ohio State  (sorry, Iowa) is in. Alabama’s defense and running game will earn a spot. Sorry, Florida.

So we have Baylor, Oklahoma State or Oklahoma battling with Notre Dame or Stanford for the fourth New Year’s Eve invitation.

My top four today: 1. Alabama, 2. Clemson, 3. Ohio State, 4. Notre Dame.

TWEET OF THE WEEK:  @OxfordPolice: Asking us to kick the Arkansas QB out of the stadium is not a legit reason to dial 911.

This was during Ole Miss’ loss to Arkansas as Razorbacks QB Brandon Allen threw for 442 yards and six touchdowns.