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NM Bowl: Lobos, Arizona have a history

New Mexico and Arizona, the 47th and 48th states admitted to the union, share a border of almost 400 miles.

The New Mexico Lobos and the Arizona Wildcats also share a lot of football history, having first met in 1908 — some four years before statehood. They gained admission to the union 39 days apart in 1912.

On Dec. 19, the rivalry will be renewed. It was announced Sunday that the Lobos and the Wildcats will meet in the 10th annual Gildan New Mexico Bowl at University Stadium.

Arizona brings a 6-6 record into the game. The Lobos are 7-5. The Wildcats finished fifth in the Pac-12 Conference’s South Division; UNM finished tied for second in the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division.

This will be UNM’s third appearance in the game. The Lobos lost 20-12 to San Jose State in 2006 — the inaugural New Mexico Bowl — and beat Nevada 23-0 the following year.

Arizona played in the seventh New Mexico Bowl, taking a near-miracle, 49-48 victory over Nevada.

“We have great memories (of Albuquerque) from a few years ago,” said Rich Rodriguez, the Wildcats’ fourth-year coach, in a news release.

“Our entire program is excited,” said UNM coach Bob Davie, also in a news release. ” … It is a tremendous challenge for us to play a Pac-12 opponent, but also a great opportunity for our program.”

It will be the second time the two schools will face each other in a bowl game. The Wildcats beat the Lobos 20-14 in the Bowl, played in Tucson, Ariz., in 1997.

The teams got to a bowl game by different routes. New Mexico won three of its last four; Arizona lost four of its last five. They have played two common opponents this year. Arizona beat Nevada and lost to Arizona State; New Mexico lost to ASU and Nevada.

Arizona, under Rodriguez, runs a high-powered spread offense. The Wildcats averaged 36.8 points per game this season, ranking 20th nationally. But they’ve allowed an average of 35.7 points, ranking 106th.

Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon threw for 2,338 yards and 18 touchdowns this season, with only four interceptions. Solomon missed U of A’s season-ending loss to Arizona State because of concussion symptoms. Running backs Nick Wilson and Jerrard Randall have combined for more than 1,400 yards rushing.

Senior safety Will Parks has led the U of A defense with 72 tackles and 6.5 tackles for loss. Parks and UNM wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson are brothers.

“What more can you ask for, playing (Parks) in his last college game,” Hart-Johnson tweeted.

The Lobos are a run-oriented team that relied on big plays and an improved defense to reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2007. New Mexico ranks ninth nationally in rushing yards per game with an average of 246.6 yards per game. Senior running back Jhurell Pressley finished the regular season with 846 yards rushing, 11 touchdowns and a 6.3-yard average per carry.

New Mexico’s aggressive defense ranked 21st nationally in tackles for loss with 7.3 per game.

Rodriguez has a 32-20 record in his four years at Arizona. The Wildcats are 2-1 in bowls during Rodriguez’s tenure.

Davie also is in his fourth year at UNM. The Lobos are 18-31 during his tenure.

The Wildcats won that first game in 1908, 10-6, and have dominated the series. Arizona leads, 43-20 with three ties.

New Mexico, however, has a two-game win streak against Arizona. The Lobos beat the Wildcats 29-27 in 2007 and 36-28 the following year.

The two schools both were members of the Border Conference from 1931-50 — except for three seasons during World War II — and the Western Athletic Conference from 1962-77.

Arizona and Arizona State became members of the Pac-10, now the Pac-12, in 1978. The Lobos and the Wildcats have met only five times since then.