The Wyoming passing attack generated a season high 366 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air, while the New Mexico rushing game accounted for 302 yards and four rushing TDs. But it was the Lobos who came away with a 38-28 road win in Laramie in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams.
Despite a season-best performance from senior quarterback Cam Coffman, Wyoming penalties and an inability to stop the New Mexico rushing attack hampered the Cowboys throughout Saturday’s conference opener. Coffman ended the day completing 30 of 42 passes for 366 yards, four touchdown passes and two interceptions. The completions, attempts, yards and TD passes were all season highs for him. But Wyoming also had a season high 10 penalties for 98 yards, and couldn’t contain New Mexico quarterback Lamar Jordan and running back Jhurrel Pressley, who rushed for 147 and 103 yards, respectively.
“We challenged our guys to keep playing as hard as they could,” said Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl following the game. “For the most part we did that. Offensively, we threw the ball pretty well. Defensively, we were concerned about some big plays — a few missed assignments. It was a disappointing loss, but we have to continue to work hard and encourage our players.
“We won’t give up. We will keep believing and keep working. We will have our seniors show some great leadership and come back on Monday.
“I thought we made some plays. Tanner (Gentry) and Jake (Maulhardt) did some great things out there. Shaun (Wick) was sick, we will find out some more this week about him.
“We needed to get some balance between our passing game and our running game to be successful today, but we didn’t have much balance offensively. We have good running backs, but we weren’t able to get them going today.”
The Cowboys played from behind the entire day as New Mexico scored on its opening drive of the day. UNM quarterback Jordan broke a 56-yard run on the game’s second play from scrimmage to give the Lobos a 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys drove the ball 39 yards on their first possession, but the drive stalled at the UNM 36 and the Cowboys punted. The Cowboy defense forced New Mexico into a three-and-out on the next series, and Wyoming put together another promising 55-yard drive on its second possession. Coffman connected with wide receiver Tanner Gentry on a 23-yard completion and hit running back Shaun Wick for 20 yards on the drive. But on a fourth down at the New Mexico 21-yard line, Coffman was sacked for a loss of four yards and the ball went back to the Lobos on downs. It was the first of three sacks in the game by the Lobos.
“It’s important to start fast, momentum is a huge part of the game,” said Coffman as he spoke to media after the game. “It’s a whole different perspective on offense to put more pressure on them. We’re hurting ourselves if anything. It’s unacceptable with the amount of penalties we had today, and I threw two interceptions which are unacceptable.”
When asked about throwing four TD passes in the game Coffman replied, “I don’t care how many touchdowns I throw for, I want to win. They (New Mexico) had a good game plan and brought a lot of blitzes, so we tried to take advantage of that to open up the passing game. We did move the ball pretty well, but we had some key mistakes that hurt us.
After Wyoming’s second drive of the first quarter stalled, New Mexico took over at its own 25-yard line and proceeded to drive 75 yards in seven plays keyed by a 20-yard pass from Jordan to Marquis Bundy and a 19-yard TD run by Pressley to put the Lobos up 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Wyoming scored its first points on the first possession of the second quarter. Coffman was 5 of 5 passing on the drive for 48 yards, capping off the 11-play, 75-yard drive with a 13-yard TD pass to Wick to pull to within seven points at 14-7.
After the teams exchanged punts, New Mexico struck quickly as Jordan threw a 64-yard pass to wide receiver Carlos Wiggins on first down to extend their lead to 21-7.
It looked like that might be the halftime margin, but on the final drive of the first half the Cowboys put themselves back in the game. Beginning at his own 25-yard line with only 1:21 remaining in the half, Coffman connected on a 37-yard pass play to junior tight end Jacob Hollister on first down moving the ball down to the New Mexico 38. On the next play, Coffman hit freshman wide receiver James Price for 17 yards for Price’s first career reception. Following consecutive completions from Coffman to wide receiver Jake Maulhardt for five and seven yards, it appeared the Cowboys had scored when Coffman hit Maulhardt again for a nine-yard TD pass, but pass interference on the Cowboys resulted in a second and goal from the 24-yard line. The Cowboys wouldn’t be denied as Coffman connected with Gentry for 10 yards and on third and goal from the 14, Coffman hit Hollister in the back of the end zone for the Pokes’ second TD to make the halftime score 28-14 New Mexico.
Wyoming began the second half with the ball, and after gaining a first down on three consecutive rushes by sophomore running back Brian Hill, the Cowboys were forced to punt after failing on a third and one from the Wyoming 46-yard line.
New Mexico began the second half much the way they did the first when on fourth and one from the Wyoming 43, Lobo running back Richard McQuarley broke through the line and went 43 yards for the TD to put New Mexico up 35-14.
The Cowboys would answer with another sustained drive going 75 yards in eight plays. The drive was fueled by the combination of Coffman to Gentry. The two connected on passes of 33 yards, 20 yards and 11 yards for a touchdown. On the 11-yard TD reception, Gentry was originally ruled out off bounds by the officials. But after the play was reviewed, it was ruled Gentry did have a foot down in bounds and UW pulled back to within two touchdowns at 35-21.
Wyoming’s defense forced a three-and-out on the Lobos next series. But as the fourth quarter began, Coffman would throw his first interception of the game four plays into the quarter. UNM’s Markel Byrd made the interception, and New Mexico took over at its own 21-yard line.
New Mexico engineered a sustained drive of its own, going 38 yards in 10 plays and taking 6:09 off the clock before the Cowboy defense stiffened and forced a punt.
Beginning at its own 13-yard line, Coffman threw his second interception to UNM’s Dakota Cox on first down. The Cowboy defense would hold the Lobos to a field goal and New Mexico had built a 38-21 lead with only 5:19 remaining.
New Mexico improved to 2-2 on the season and 1-0 in the Mountain West. Wyoming fell to 0-4, and 0-1 in the Mountain West.
The Cowboys will travel to Boone, N.C., next week to take on the Appalachian State Mountaineers in a game that will kick off at 1:30 p.m., Mountain Time (3:30 p.m., E.T.). The game will be carried on ESPN3.