ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Air Force coach Troy Calhoun knew what to expect from New Mexico on Friday night.
The Falcons had no way to stop it.
“There’s a reason they’re one of the best rushing teams in the country if not the very best,” Calhoun said. “And they proved that tonight. You want to be able to come up with some stops.”
Air Force (2-8, 0-6 Mountain West) was unable to make enough stops in a 45-37 loss.
“Up front, they are a mammoth group, their offensive line,” Calhoun said. “I thought they did a nice job of being able to push on that advantage.”
New Mexico retired Brian Urlacher’s No. 44 jersey at halftime and the former Chicago Bears linebacker gave the Lobos a pep talk before the game.
“You can tell he’s a leader,” New Mexico tailback Kasey Carrier said. “I was thinking we were the Chicago Bears. I was like, ‘Let’s go!’ He got pretty intense. And he’s a big dude, too.”
New Mexico used that inspiration to beat the Falcons.
“Getting a win with him in the stadium means a lot to our team,” said Carrier, who finished with 179 rushing yards to lead a ground attack that had 451 yards.
Lobos quarterback Cole Gautsche added 140 yards and two scores and also threw a touchdown pass — a 28-yarder to Jeric Magnant in the first quarter — on his only completion in three attempts.
“If you didn’t know any better, there’s a resemblance to Tim Tebow,” Calhoun said about Gautsche. “With his size — and when you meet the kid, he is a huge young man — and that execution-wise is pretty crafty, too.”
New Mexico (3-6, 1-4 Mountain West) snapped a four-game losing streak.
“It’s just as big as any other win, but I guess it feels a little bigger just because we’ve been kind of down and Air Force is a pretty solid team and we came out and won,” said linebacker Brett Bowers, who wore Urlacher’s No. 44 until this game.
The teams combined for 924 total yards, but one of the biggest plays came on defense when Bowers sacked Air Force quarterback Nate Romine for a 13-yard loss on a fourth-and-23 attempt midway through the fourth quarter with the Falcons trailing 42-34. The Lobos then took 4:10 off the clock in driving for a field goal.
Perhaps a bigger play, however, came in the third quarter New Mexico backup running back Jhurell Presley broke off a 61-yard touchdown run shortly after Air Force (2-8, 0-6) had taken its first lead at 28-27.
“That was a big play, a very big play,” Calhoun said. “It was just one of those where you get into a contest with a bunch of points and bunch of yards and that certainly happened.”
Anthony LaCoste ran for 177 yards for Air Force, and Romine threw three touchdown passes and ran for a score.
Urlacher was a standout defensive back from 1996-99 at New Mexico. He played linebacker for the Bears, retiring after last season.
“It’s a big deal,” said Urlacher, from the small New Mexico town of Lovington. “There’s a lot of people from my hometown that came up here to watch this and be a part of it. So I’m very excited and honored to have this chance to do this.”
– By GLEN ROSALES, Associated Press
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