Running back Richard McQuarley (top) had a big day for UNM, here going over the Spartans’ Maurice McKnight for one his three TDs.
“Whether it was down at Las Cruces, back at Rutgers or here today, we had such an opportunity to truly capture the momentum of a game,” Davie said. “But because of big plays against us or mistakes, we can’t quite get over the hump and totally seize momentum.”
This time, though, unlike in their losses at New Mexico State and Rutgers, the Lobos never lost the lead.
Over the course of the afternoon, the Lobos led by as many as 21 points and by as few as one. But the victory was not secured until a Spartans onside kick failed with 28 seconds left.
New Mexico, dominant on the ground in seizing a 31-20 halftime lead, struggled to move the ball in the second half. After the Spartans cut the lead to 41-34 on a 45-yard Kenny Potter-to-Deonte Cooper swing pass, the Lobo offense had two consecutive three-and-outs.
The UNM defense, though, rose to the occasion with two three-and-outs of its own. And on the next Lobos possession, sophomore running back Tyrone Owens bolted 42 yards to give UNM a first-and-goal at the SJSU 10-yard line.
Three plays later, junior Richard McQuarley bounced a dive outside and scored the ultimately winning touchdown from the 6.
“I felt like we just needed that one big play,” said McQuarley, who had three rushing touchdowns on the afternoon. “And it came with T.O. (Owens). … I felt like that set the tone our way, and that’s what we needed.”
In preventing a repeat of what happened in Las Cruces and in Piscataway, N.J., the Lobos also got big plays from the defense and special teams.
After a 62-yard UNM drive that resulted in a 35-yard Jason Sanders field goal, San Jose State took over on its own 25 with five minutes left in the third quarter. Four plays later, UNM junior linebacker Austin Ocasio picked off a Potter pass and returned it 37 yards for a score that put the Lobos up 41-20.
“I just dropped back into coverage and he tried to throw a dig (route) under me, but I just jumped up and grabbed it,” Ocasio said. “I was in the right place at the right time, and the (defensive) call was the right call. I was in the right position to make play, and I made the play.”
Sanders, who had missed a 32-yard field goal at Rutgers in the closing minutes, hit a 45-yarder on Saturday as the first half ended — expanding an eight-point lead to 11.
‘We’ve got a weapon (in Sanders),” Davie said. “… He kicks the ball in the end zone (on kickoffs) every time, and he hit his field goals.
‘’I thought the one at the end of the first half was big.”
The Lobos continued their annoying habit of giving away double-digit first-half leads, but this time they recovered.
A Teriyon Gipson run of 61 yards set up one touchdown, and his 40-yard scoring run gave UNM a 14-0 lead with 7:32 left in the first quarter. Gipson finished with 156 yards on 11 carries and Owens with 117 on 16 rushes, as the Lobos had a total of 446 yards on the ground.
The Spartans, however, answered with a 75-yard Zamore Zigler touchdown run. A disputed pass-interference call against Lobos nickel safety Lee Crosby then kept alive an 80-yard SJSU touchdown drive, but UNM defensive end Nik D’Avanzo blocked the extra-point try to keep New Mexico in the lead.