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Lobo football can share division title with win over Wyoming

(Click here for the Lobos Game Day page.)

The 2016 New Mexico Lobos have done quite a nice job of sending folks poring through the football record books.

The last time they’d won five straight games: 2004. The last time they’d had seven or more wins in back-to-back seasons: 2003-04.

The last time they’d had consecutive bowl appearances: 2006-07. The Lobos are bowl-eligible and undoubtedly will go bowling next month.

The last time they’d had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season: never. Teriyon Gipson needs just 8 more yards to join Tyrone Owens in quadruple digits.

Saturday, thanks to Air Force’s 27-20 victory over Boise State on Friday, the Lobos have a chance for another “last time.” A victory over Wyoming in the regular-season finale at University Stadium would give them a share of the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division title.

The last time the Lobos won a Mountain Division title was in 1997, when the conference in question was not the Mountain West but the Western Athletic.

So, will excited fans pack University Stadium tonight, lured by the prospect of a division title? Not likely. As of the close of business Friday, some 14,900 tickets — about 38 percent of capacity — had been sold.

Saturday night’s made-for-television 8:21 p.m. kickoff, without question, is one reason for the anticipated light turnout. But there’s a trade-off; the ESPN2 telecast is worth $500,000 to UNM from the Mountain West’s TV bonus plan, and that makes it $1.5 million in the coffers the past three weeks. New Mexico’s games at Utah State on Nov. 12 and at Colorado State last Saturday also were aired on ESPN2 and also triggered the bonus.

New Mexico coach Bob Davie likes the chance for national exposure.

“I think this is a great slot to be in Saturday night,” Davie said earlier this week. “… There’s not a whole lot of games on (Saturday night), particularly that late. So I think it’s a heck of an opportunity.”

As for that possibility of a division title, there are limitations.

Should they beat Wyoming (8-3, 6-1), the Lobos (7-4, 5-2) would only share the title with the Cowboys and Boise State (10-2, 6-2). Wyoming, by virtue of Boise State’s loss to Air Force, already has clinched a spot in the Dec. 3 MWC title game against San Diego State.

The tiebreaker would be Wyoming’s better record within the Mountain Division. The Cowboys’ conference loss was to UNLV, a West Division team; New Mexico and Boise State each have two Mountain Division defeats.

If Wyoming beats UNM, the Cowboys win the division outright.

This week, Davie and his players haven’t talked much about the divisional race — not knowing how the Air Force-Boise State game would turn out. Their emphasis was more about shaking off the effects of last week’s 49-31 loss at CSU and finishing the regular season on a high note.

“Obviously we’re happy to have another game after what happened last week,” Davie said. “And to have another game against a really good team, I think, is fitting.

“Hopefully we can represent ourselves better than we did (at CSU).”

In Wyoming, UNM is facing a team that beat Colorado State and Boise State — the teams that handily handed the Lobos their two conference defeats.

Like Boise State and CSU, Wyoming will test the UNM defense — badly burned by the Rams last week — with a balanced offense. The Cowboys’ average yardage gained through the air and on the ground are almost identical.

As always, said Lobos cornerback Jadon Boatright, the focus this week has been more inward than outward — more on the Lobos than the Cowboys.

“I feel like that CSU game just opened our eyes and let us know what we really need to work on,” Boatright said. “It’s gonna be a real good game, a physical game. and we’re just gonna do our job and learn from last week.”

Saturday

Wyoming at

New Mexico

8:15 p.m., ESPN2, 770 AM/94.5 FM

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