New Mexico Bowl

New Mexico Bowl

Former QBs face off as coaches in New Mexico Bowl
December 7, 2007

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -The quarterbacks are in charge at the New Mexico Bowl.

Nevada coach Chris Ault and New Mexico's Rocky Long have overseen their teams for years, but an interesting angle to their bowl matchup is that both are former quarterbacks who became head coaches at their old schools.

They agreed Thursday it provides a different perspective on the job.

``When you're an alum of your university, your coaching feelings run deeper than most coaches,'' said Ault, a Wolf Pack quarterback from 1965-67. ``You can't command it. It's just there. Things that happen, you take them a little deeper.''

Long, who took snaps for the Lobos from 1969-71, was defensive coordinator at Wyoming, Oregon State and UCLA before being hired to direct New Mexico's program in 1998. There was a difference in his first head coaching job.

``You're emotionally tied to the school. You're emotionally tied to the program,'' Long said. ``I don't know if it means you work harder, but you put a little more of yourself into it. It's a lot more than just a job.''

Long sometimes discusses games, recruits or events by explaining where they fit in the context of New Mexico's program.

College football thrives on its history, nationally and regionally. Long said any coach who doesn't understand his program's history is at a disadvantage, and that's where an alum who coaches the team might have an advantage.

``There's been a couple cases here lately where coaches have lost jobs because they didn't embrace the history of the program,'' Long said. ``They thought they were going to come in and do it their way and it kind of backfired.''

For example, recently fired Nebraska coach Bill Callahan alienated fans by eliminating a walk-on program that thrived under former coach Tom Osborne, producing quality players and helping rural fans connect to the team.

As for Ault, he's practically a walking media guide on Nevada football.

The Hall of Fame coach took over the Wolf Pack program from 1976-92, guiding Nevada as it started at Division II, moved through I-AA in the Big Sky Conference and ultimately to Division I.

He also served as Nevada's athletics director from 1986-2003 and returned to coach football from 1994-95 after a one-year break. When Nevada needed a coach in 2003, he stepped down as AD to take up his whistle one more time.

As an alum, administrator and coach, Ault said he feels strongly invested.

``The beauty of my situation is I'm one of the few people at the university who can connect the past with the present,'' he said. ``I really believe in that. I'm a great traditionalist. I believe in tradition, not just in athletics but for the university itself.''

When it comes to the X's and O's, however, Ault and Long really can't rely on what they learned when they played.

After all, the game has changed radically since their playing days, and Long evolved into a defensive coach, the architect of a blitz-crazy 3-3-5 scheme that has drawn national acclaim for its effectiveness.

``There's nothing we do that was like when I was playing. There's nothing he does that he did when he was playing,'' Long said.

Ault agreed, saying if he tossed 20 passes during a game, he might have needed an ice pack afterward. But he has found a few carryovers from quarterback to coach, mostly when it comes to leadership and game management.

Not that he drums his players with it.

``I don't really reflect back too much on my days as a player to my team,'' Ault said, ``because most of them would just laugh.''

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Re: New Mexico Bowl

2007 New Mexico Bowl Preview
by Joe Paciella

Nevada (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)

Conference Matchup: WAC vs. Mountain West
Date: Dec. 22, 2007 - 4:30 p.m. EST on ESPN HD
Location: Albuquerque, NM
Spread: New Mexico -3

The Nevada football program is on an upswing as of late. They will be playing in their third straight bowl game (1-1 in their last two) when they travel to Albuquerque to take on the University of New Mexico. It is the first time in Wolf Pack school history that a streak like this one has taken place. The Lobos, riding a seven-year bowl appearance streak actually have a home game, as University Stadium will play host to this year's contest.
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Nevada can cover if they can pile up the yardage and keep the offense moving. On the season, the Wolf Pack have averaged 488.9 yards of total offense per game. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has the fifth best passer rating in the nation, which is impressive since he is in the company of great QBs such as Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow, Colt Brennan and Graham Harrell. The 6'6" freshman has big game ability, but more importantly he does not turn the ball over. With only three interceptions this season, not many can say they have fewer picks. They will need this type of ball security against the Lobos in a virtual road game.

The defense doesn't have to win the game, but they can't lose it if they are to stay with New Mexico. If they look the way they did against Boise St., giving up 69 points, they don't have a chance. Granted, it was a four overtime game, but they still can't afford to surrender so many points. Since the defense doesn't do a terrific job of forcing turnovers (only averaging about 1.3 per game), or limiting yardage (giving up over 400 yards per game), they need to focus on not giving up the big play. Making the Lobos settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, or even forcing a punt or two, may be enough for the offense to take over the game and make up the difference.

New Mexico can cover if their defense, which only gives up a shade over 20 points per game, can shut down the Wolf Pack attack. Eliminating the ground game will be the key in this one. Nevada averages about 225 yards on the ground, while New Mexico only gives up approximately 126 rushing yards per game. If New Mexico can make Nevada one dimensional and take away the run, it could force Wolf Pack quarterback Colin Kaepernick into some bad decisions.

Getting their 85th-ranked offense on track against a horrible Nevada defense could be the other way this game could shift towards the Lobos. Junior running back Rodney Ferguson may have to put this one on his shoulders and lead his team to a win. New Mexico is 5-1 this season when Ferguson has over 100 yards rushing in a game and only 3-3 when he doesn't. If the punishing runner can dig for some first downs and keep the offense on the field, it may just limit the number of Wolf Pack possessions enough to secure a victory.

General notes: Nevada is 15-7 in their last 22 ATS. New Mexico is 6-13 ATS in their last 19 home games, but 13-6 straight up against non-conference opponents at University Stadium. The Lobos are 2-7-1 all time in their 10 bowl appearances. New Mexico's last bowl win came on Dec. 9, 1961 in the Aviation Bowl against Central Michigan. It should be noted that this bowl game was never played again, possibly due to its atrocious name.

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Re: New Mexico Bowl

New Mexico RB is ineligible for bowl game
ASSOCIATED PRESS

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Star New Mexico running back Rodney Ferguson won't play in the New Mexico Bowl on Saturday after being declared academically ineligible.

Reserve running back Mike Love also is ineligible and cannot play when the Lobos (8-4) meet Nevada (6-6).

Ferguson, a junior, was the team's top rusher the past two seasons. He ran for 1,177 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns this season. Last year, he led the conference with 1,234 yards rushing.

Paul Baker will start at tailback. The junior has 324 yards rushing this season, with a career-high 54 yards in a season-opening loss at UTEP.

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Re: New Mexico Bowl

New Mexico Bowl Preview
By Judd Hall

New Mexico Bowl

Nevada (6-6 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs. New Mexico (8-4 SU, 4-7 ATS)

How they got there:

The Wolf Pack knew they’d have their work cut out for them this season after losing nine starters from last season’s squad. And it showed on the field as Nevada wound up fourth in the Western Athletic Conference with a 4-4 league record. The Pack’s last three defeats were by a combined six points to Boise State, Hawaii and San Jose State.

The Lobos are making it to their second straight New Mexico Bowl by virtue of finishing fourth in the Mountain West Conference. They opened the season strong, going 6-2, but alternating wins and losses in their last four games denied them a chance to make it to a better bowl.

What to expect:

The game will hinge on who can run more effectively. And more importantly, who won’t turn the ball over. Nevada has the top rushing attack in the WAC (225.8 YPG) and will face a Lobos defense that is giving up 127.3 YPG on the ground this season.

New Mexico’s numbers aren’t great this season, ranking seven in the Mountain West with 131.1 rushing YPG. However, the Lobos will get to face a defense that is allowing 172.6 YPG.

Players to Watch:

Nevada – Freshman quarterback Colin Kaepernick has thrown for 2,038 yards and 19 touchdowns.

New Mexico – Running back Rodney Ferguson is a Top 3 back in the Mountain West, rushing for 1,177 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Bowl Records:

The Wolf Pack are 3-4 in their seven lifetime bowl appearances. Last season, Nevada lost to the Hurricanes as a 3 ½-point underdog, 21-20, in the MPC Computers Bowl. This is the Pack’s third consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Chris Ault.

New Mexico has played in 10 bowl games in its football history, going 2-8 in those matches. This will be the Lobos fourth bowl contest in Rocky Long’s 10 years as head coach. They lost last year’s inaugural New Mexico Bowl as 3 ½-point home favorites to San Jose State, 20-12.

Insider the Line: New Mexico -3, 59


This line hasn’t moved at all since opening on Dec. 3. The total, however, has progressively shrunk from 62 on Dec. 3 to the current total of 59.

It should be considered a given with the total as high as it is, that you may want to consider the ‘under.’ Nevada has watched the ‘under’ go 6-4 this year, while the Lobos have watched the ‘under’ make a 7-3-1 mark in 2007.

Expert Opinion: Christian Alexander

New Mexico should be able to win this game if they execute. And by execute, I mean not turn over the ball. Turnovers have killed the Lobos this year, especially in the last two games of the season where RB Rodney Ferguson fumbled three times.

Ferguson should be a key in this game. After rushing for 1,177 yards and 13 TDs this season he will get to face Nevada's 79th-ranked rushing defense and should be in for a big day. Of course, he will need to hold on to the ball.

In the 2006 New Mexico Bowl, the talented back fumbled twice in the Lobos' eventual loss to San Jose State. Considering his recent struggles and the bowl game last year, one would hope Ferguson will take extra care with the ball.

Besides, Rocky Long-coached teams are known for strong defenses and this squad is no exception. The Lobos rank 23rd in the country in yards allowed at 329.

Prediction:

Like was mentioned earlier, this tilt will hinge on the success of the running game of both clubs. But you can’t run on every down, no matter how much you want to believe it can be done and win.

So you have to expect a few throws here and there on each series of the game. And that is where I’ll hang my hat on the Wolf Pack. Kaepernick was impressive considering that he was unexpectedly thrust into the starting role. Admittedly, his performances against Boise State, Hawaii and San Jose State weren’t great accuracy wise (32 of 68), but did pass for six scores and one interception.

Something tells me that he’ll be able to improve his completion percentage and have his way against a Lobos secondary that is allowing 202.4 YPG through the air.

Final Score: Nevada 27, New Mexico 16

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Re: New Mexico Bowl

New Mexico Bowl: Nevada Wolf Pack vs. New Mexico Lobos

Hawaii often plays in the Hawaii Bowl - why not have New Mexico hosting the New Mexico Bowl? The Lobos were 5-1 SU at home in 2007 and face the Nevada Wolf Pack December 22. Nevada averaged just under 500 yards in offense per game, meaning they could well extend the Lobo bowl win drought, which extends back to 1961.

Nevada racked up 546 yards last time out in a 49-10 rout of Louisiana Tech, covering the 7-point home spread. The 59 points scored were UNDER the posted total of 62.

Colin Kaepernick was 15-for-25 for 361 yards and two touchdowns, while Luke Lippincott ran 25 times for 112 yards and four majors for the Wolf Pack.

New Mexico held UNLV to 233 yards last time out in a 27-6 win, covering the 12.5-point home spread. The 33 points scored were UNDER the posted total of 47.5.

Donovan Porterie was 18-for-32 for 199 yards, one touchdown and two picks, while Marcus Smith caught eight passes for 130 yards and a score for the Lobos.

Team records:
Nevada: 6-6 SU, 5-6 ATS
New Mexico: 8-4 SU, 4-7 ATS

Nevada most recently:
When playing in December are 3-2
When playing on grass are 4-6
After outgaining opponent are 6-4
When playing outside the conference are 6-4

New Mexico most recently:
When playing in December are 0-6
When playing on grass are 7-3
After outgaining opponent are 6-4
When playing outside the conference are 5-5

A few trends to consider:
The total has gone UNDER in 5 of Nevada's last 6 games
Nevada is 4-2 SU in its last 6 games
Nevada is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games
The total has gone UNDER in 6 of New Mexico's last 7 games
New Mexico is 8-3 SU in its last 11 games
New Mexico is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games

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Re: New Mexico Bowl

Nevada (6-6) vs. New Mexico (8-4)

GAME NOTES: Facing off against each other for the first time since World War II, the Nevada Wolf Pack and the New Mexico Lobos clash in the second annual New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque. The Lobos were here last season, but even though the squad held a distinct homefield advantage, the team still bowed to San Jose State by a score of 20-12. In terms of the 2007 regular season, UNM finished up 8-4 and was 5-3 in Mountain West Conference play thanks to a 27-6 victory over UNLV to close out the campaign in late November. Of the squad's four setbacks, two were by a touchdown or less (UTEP and BYU). As for the Wolf Pack, they appeared well on their way to the postseason when they won their third straight game to open the month of November, but then the program dropped two straight and was in danger of not becoming bowl eligible. Along came Louisiana Tech on December 1st and a 49-10 romp in Reno helped extend Nevada's season. Entering this game, Nevada has a losing record in the postseason at 3-4, dropping a narrow 21-20 outing versus Miami in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl. As for the Lobos, they've won just two of their 10 postseason contests since taking part in the 1939 Sun Bowl. In 1946 the squad toppled Denver in the Sun Bowl by a score of 34-24 and then 15 years later captured a 28-12 victory versus Western Michigan during the Aviation Bowl. Since then, UNM has fallen in five straight bowl appearances. The Lobos lead the head-to-head series with Nevada by a count of 1-0-1, winning the first encounter by a score of 26-7 in 1941, but then playing to a scoreless tie the following season in Reno.

The Wolf Pack started out this season with Nick Graziano at the helm, but an injury put him on the sidelines and nearly derailed the entire campaign. In came Colin Kaepernick and everything seemed right in Reno as he started the last seven games for the squad. In limited play, Kaepernick, who was eventually named the WAC's Freshman of the Year, threw for more than 2,000 yards and 19 touchdowns, against just three interceptions. In addition, the young signal- caller also raced for 567 yards on the ground and scored another six TDs for the Pack. When it wasn't Kaepernick doing all the dirty work, it was RB Luke Lippincott getting it done. A First-Team All-WAC choice, Lippincott led the conference with his 115 ypg and managed to cross the goal line 15 times for the group. Down the field the offense seemed to focus on Marko Mitchell quite a bit, resulting in his team-leading 47 catches for 1,033 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging a hefty 22 yards per reception. Also garnering attention was Adam Bishop, not so much for his 13 grabs, but for the fact that he took seven of those into the end zone for a team that ended up second in the WAC and seventh in the nation in total offense (488.9 ypg) and 18th in scoring (36.3 ppg).

Nevada failed to place a single player on the All-WAC First Team defense this season, basically because the squad was lax in its efforts too often. The run defense was torched for 172.6 ypg, making the group seventh in the conference and 79th in the nation. The pass defense was a bit more respectable with 231.3 ypg allowed, ranking the unit fourth in the league and 67th in the country. Putting it all together and it resulted in a hefty 32.9 ppg allowed. There were a couple of games in which the squad looked decent, but holding down Nicholls State and Louisiana Tech are far cries from the true competition in the WAC like Fresno State and Boise State, teams that tallied 49 and 69 points, respectively, in back-to-back meetings in early October. Although he missed two games, Second-Team All-WAC choice Ezra Butler still topped the tackles list for the Wolf Pack with 86 stops and was tied for the lead with 11.5 tackles for loss. Throw in three interceptions and three forced fumbles and he was easily the most dominant player on the squad in 2007.

Despite not placing first in the MWC standings this season, the rest of the league easily recognized the amount of talent that the Lobos had on offense, naming a total of six players to the All-MWC First Team. For the second year in a row Travis Brown made the top team in the voting with his 69 receptions for 911 yards and five touchdowns, while fellow wideout Marcus Smith went above and beyond with his 86 grabs for 1,039 yards and three scores. As good as the duo has been, the rest of the receiving corps has been sorely lacking and that may have a lot to do with Donovan Porterie locking in on either Brown or Smith far too much. The pair combined for 155 receptions and everyone else tallied a combined 78 catches. Porterie was up and down in 2007, hitting for 221 ypg and 13 scores, but he also tossed eight interceptions, which made the production of running back Rodney Ferguson (292 carries, 1,177 yards, 13 TDs) so vital. A second-time pick for the All-MWC First Team, Ferguson was also the third-leading receiver for the unit, which may be why the Lobos were seventh in the conference and 78th in the nation with an average of 24.8 ppg this season. Unfortunately, it was recently announced that Ferguson has been declared academically ineligible for the contest, not to mention backup Mike Love.

Four times this season the Lobos held an opponent to 10 points or less, and still the team was fifth in the MWC in scoring defense with 20.6 ppg allowed. The pass defense for head coach Rocky Long was especially tough, permitting just 202.4 ypg to rank second in the conference and 22nd in the country this year. Take away the 473 given up to New Mexico State and the 446 to Arizona in back-to-back games in early September, and there's no telling how great the secondary would be regarded. Of the team's 12 games, opponents failed to record an aerial touchdown in half of them, with foes generating a total of only 16 passing scores the entire year. Again, wipe away the seven given up to NMSU and the Wildcats and the numbers would be that much better for New Mexico. A pick for the All-MWC First Team on defense, Tyler Donaldson made almost one-fourth of his 62 tackles this season behind the line of scrimmage and was also second on the unit with four and a half sacks, trailing only Michael Tuohy, who tallied five sacks and was credited with a stunning 21 quarterback hurries along the way.

A member of the college football hall of fame, Nevada head coach Chris Ault is well aware of what it takes to get his team ready for a big game. However, having a freshman direct the offense on the field wasn't supposed to be the plan this season, which is why New Mexico's defense might be able to keep the score close even without Ferguson.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Nevada 27, New Mexico 21

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Re: New Mexico Bowl

NEW MEXICO BOWL (at Albuquerque, N.M.)

Nevada (6-6, 5-6 ATS) vs. New Mexico (8-4, 4-7 ATS)


Nevada, making its third straight bowl appearance out of the Western Athletic Conference, plays a virtual road game when it takes on New Mexico on the Lobos’ home field at University Stadium.

The Wolf Pack capped their middling season with a 49-10 home rout of Louisiana Tech as a seven-point home favorite to gain bowl-eligible status. Redshirt freshman QB Colin Kaepernick was ridiculously efficient, piling up 404 yards on 18-of-29 passing, with three TDs and no INTs. RB Luke Lippincott added 25 carries for 112 yards and four TDs.

New Mexico routed UNLV 27-6 to end its regular season, covering as a 12-point home chalk, which halted a five-game ATS slide. The Lobos, who alternated SU wins and losses in their final five contests, will be without leading rusher Rodney Ferguson (1,173 yards, 13 TDs), who was declared academically ineligible this week.

The Wolf Pack played in two one-point bowl games the past two seasons, edging Central Florida 49-48 in overtime as a 3½-point favorite in the 2005 Hawaii Bowl and falling to Miami last year 21-20 as a 3½-point underdog in the MPC Computers Bowl in Boise, Idaho.

The Lobos are 0-4 SU and ATS in bowl games since 2002, all under coach Rocky Long. That includes a 20-12 loss to San Jose State as a three-point chalk in last year’s New Mexico Bowl.

Nevada is on a 6-2 ATS roll as an underdog, including 3-0 ATS in the last three. Overall, the Wolf Pack are on a 15-7 ATS streak.

New Mexico is 4-9 ATS as a home chalk dating to the 2004 season (2-2 ATS this year). The Lobos are 6-13 ATS in their last 19 home starts.

Nevada’s Kaepernick didn’t take over the starting QB role until the sixth game, but he finished the season completing 120 of 216 passes for 2,038 yards and 19 TDs, against just three INTs. He also ran for 567 yards and six TDs, as the Wolf Pack averaged 36.2 points and 489 yards per game.

The Lobos put up 24.8 points and 357 yards per outing, but were much stronger defensively (20.6 points, 329 yards per game) than Nevada (33 points, 404 yards per game).

The under was 6-1 in New Mexico’s final seven games (4-0 in the last four) and 5-1 in Nevada’s last six (3-0 in the last three).

ATS ADVANTAGE: NEVADA and UNDER

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