Lobos have a rock-solid defense
Lofty challenge awaits OSU and star Steven Jackson in Las Vegas
Good news for Oregon State: New Mexico doesn't have any Brian Urlachers running around on defense. However, the Lobos will be formidable in other ways in the Las Vegas Bowl on Christmas Eve.
When the Lobos (8-4) take to the field in Las Vegas for the second consecutive year, the Beavers will see an ex-OSU defensive coordinator as head coach (Rocky Long), an ex-player as defensive coordinator (Osia Lewis) and plenty of offensive firepower in the backfield.
New Mexico, which averages 227 yards rushing, features one of the nation's top rushers in 5-11, 214-pound DonTrell Moore, who hails from Roswell, N.M. He has 1,438 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns this season, averaging 5.4 yards per carry Ñ very much an identified flying object.
Against Utah Ñ the same team that beat Oregon Ñ the Lobos rushed for 407 yards and piled up 633 yards total offense. Moore had 119 yards rushing, D.D. Cox 106 and fullback Adrian Byrd 98.
Westview High graduate Casey Kelly runs the show at quarterback, supplementing the running game with play-action passes for the most part. He has thrown for 2,191 yards this year, completing 142 of 262 attempts (54.2 percent), with 13 TDs and nine interceptions. His top target is Adrian Boyd, who has 41 catches for 581 yards.
Long's calling card is defense, and the Lobos held opposing teams to 80.4 yards rushing (2.5 per carry). In the regular-season finale, Wyoming managed only 122 total yards, just 23 of that on the ground, and New Mexico rolled 26-3. All Lobo eyes, in other words, will be on OSU star Steven Jackson.
There's no one of Urlacher's ability Ñ the Chicago Bears linebacker played for the Lobos in the late 1990s Ñ but linebackers run the New Mexico defense. Daniel Gawronski leads in tackles, and Billy Strother has the most sacks (six). Defensive end Zach Rupp has 15 tackles for loss.
'Their quarterback has taken some hits, so hopefully we can keep that up,' Rupp says of OSU's Derek Anderson.
The Lobos fared well at Washington State on Sept. 20, a 23-13 defeat that left them 1-3. They also lost to Texas Tech, BYU and UNLV.
New Mexico will be making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1946-47 behind Long, in his sixth year with the team. From 1991 to 1995, he served as defensive coordinator at OSU, and then coached at UCLA.
Long has a 33-39 mark at New Mexico but has steadily built the program since winning three games in 1998.
UCLA beat New Mexico 27-13 in last year's Las Vegas Bowl. The Lobos will take the bowl much more seriously this season.
'We had a bunch of guys who probably were not as focused as they should have been last year,' offensive tackle Jason Lazenmeier said. Translation: Party!
Says Moore: 'We didn't show up well on national TV.'