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December 22, 2006

New Mexico Bowl: San Jose St. vs. New Mexico

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Head-to-Head Breakdown

Anyone who decides to watch the New Mexico Bowl this weekend probably shouldn't leave early.

No lead is safe when San Jose State or New Mexico is playing.

New Mexico (6-6) came from behind in the fourth quarter or overtime to beat Nevada-Las Vegas, Utah and Colorado State in consecutive weeks.

San Jose State rallied from at least 13 points down in victories over Stanford, Utah State and New Mexico State. The Spartans also erased a three-point halftime deficit in a triumph over Idaho.

All those comebacks have both teams on the verge of ending long bowl victory droughts. New Mexico and San Jose State will square off Saturday afternoon (4:35 p.m., ESPN) at University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M.

"This game's huge," San Jose State linebacker Matt Castelo said. "I don't even remember the last time San Jose State went to a bowl game, and I think we have a really good chance of winning."

There's a good reason Castelo can't remember the last time San Jose State reached a bowl game. He wasn't even in grade school when it happened.

San Jose State has stayed home for the holidays since beating Central Michigan 48-24 in the 1990 California Raisin Bowl.

New Mexico is making its fourth bowl appearance in the last five years, but the Lobos haven't won a bowl game since beating Western Michigan 28-12 in the 1961 Aviation Bowl at Dayton, Ohio.

The Lobos like their chances of winning this weekend because they'll be playing in their home stadium.

"There is definitely excitement about the chance to win the first bowl game in a long time in front of your home crowd," New Mexico linebacker Cody Kase said.

San Jose State went 6-1 at home and 2-3 on the road this year, but the Spartans insist they won't be intimidated by the surroundings. Sophomore cornerback Christopher Owens said the Spartans expect to win no matter where they're playing.

"We could play in Alaska and I feel we'd have the same confidence," Owens said.

New Mexico Bowl: San Jose State vs. New Mexico
Date: Saturday, Dec. 23, 4:30 p.m.
Location: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.
Network: ESPN (Bob Wischusen, Rod Gilmore, Trevor Matich and Stacey Dales).
San Jose State Spartans
Conference: Western Athletic Conference
Record: 8-4, 5-3
Coach: Dick Tomey (11-12, second season at San Jose State; 169-122-7 in 26 seasons overall).
Passing leader: Adam Trafalis (170-of-258, 2,075 yards, 18 TDs, seven INTs)
Rushing leader: Yonus Davis (155 carries, 984 yards, six TDs), Patrick Perry (100 carries, 444 yards, seven TDs).
Receiving leader: James Jones (64 catches, 787 yards, eight TDs), John Broussard (48 catches, 738 yards, six TDs).
Defensive leader: CB Dwight Lowery (22 solos, 23 assists, nine interceptions, six pass breakups, two fumble recoveries), LB Matt Castelo (67 solos, 80 assists, three tackles for loss, one interception, two forced fumbles), S Chris Vedder (52 solos, 45 assists, 2 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, one interception), LB Damaja Jones (45 solos, 45 assists, 9 tackles for loss, two sacks, five pass breakups).
New Mexico Lobos
Conference: Mountain West
Record: 6-6, 4-4
Coach: Rocky Long (52-56, ninth season).
Passing leader: Chris Nelson (95-of-190, 1,247 yards, 11 TDs, six INTs), Donovan Porterie (64-of-116, 906 yards, six TDs, two INTs).
Rushing leader: Rodney Ferguson (230 carries, 1,132 yards, seven TDs).
Receiving leader: Travis Brown (57 catches, 784 yards, four TDs), Marcus Smith (47 catches, 787 yards, eight TDs), John Mulcrone (20 catches, 282 yards, one TD), Rodney Ferguson (20 catches, 213 yards, two TDs).
Defensive leaders: LB Quentin Cotton (68 tackles, eight tackles for loss)
San Jose State running game vs. New Mexico run defense: San Jose State boasts the nation's 15th-ranked ground attack and averages 184.3 rushing yards per game. Yonus Davis has gained 984 yards with a feast-or-famine approach. The 5-foot-7 junior gained 660 of his yards in just four games and ran for a total of 123 yards in his last four contests. While Davis is the breakaway threat, Patrick Perry provides more consistency in a complementary role that has expanded late in the season. Perry has carried the ball 29 times in San Jose State's last two games. New Mexico has allowed at least 160 rushing yards in three of its last five games. Edge: San Jose State.
San Jose State passing game vs. New Mexico pass defense: The improvement of San Jose State QB Adam Trafalis has played a major role in San Jose State's resurgence. After compiling 11 touchdown passes with 10 interceptions last year, Trafalis has thrown for 18 touchdowns and just seven picks this season. Trafalis also has engineered four second-half comebacks. Trafalis could feast on a New Mexico team that ranks 102nd out of 119 Division I-A teams in pass defense. Edge: San Jose State.
New Mexico running game vs. San Jose State run defense: New Mexico has featured a 1,000-yard rusher each of the last five years. Sophomore Rodney Ferguson has continued the tradition this year by rushing for 1,132 yards and seven touchdowns. Ferguson rushed for a total of 348 yards against Brigham Young and San Diego State in New Mexico's final two regular-season games. He should gain at least 100 yards against a San Jose State defense that allows 4.1 yards per carry. Edge: New Mexico.
New Mexico passing game vs. San Jose State pass defense: After missing the Lobos' final two regular-season games with a sprained ankle, redshirt freshman quarterback Donovan Porterie will lead New Mexico in the bowl game. Porterie will have to watch out for a secondary that features cornerback Dwight Lowery, who is tied for the NCAA lead with nine interceptions this season. San Jose State has given up 17 touchdown passes this year, but the Spartans also have collected 16 interceptions. Edge: San Jose State.
San Jose State coaching staff vs. New Mexico coaching staff: New Mexico has gone .500 or better each of the last six years under head coach Rocky Long. The Lobos never had put together six consecutive six-win seasons until now. San Jose State has put together an even greater turnaround under Dick Tomey, who had coached at Hawaii and Arizona before arriving at San Jose State. Now that Air Force's Fisher DeBerry has retired, Tomey trails only Penn State's Joe Paterno, Florida State's Bobby Bowden and Texas' Mack Brown for career Division I-A victories by active coaches. New Mexico offensive coordinator Bob Toledo will coach in this game despite accepting the head coaching job at Tulane last week. Edge: San Jose State.
San Jose State will win if: The Spartans will be playing in New Mexico's home stadium, so they need to grab an early lead to prevent the partisan crowd from becoming a factor. They also must find a way to prevent Ferguson from running wild the way he did in his last two games.
New Mexico will win if: The Lobos must prevent Davis from getting a breakaway, and have to avoid throwing careless passes against San Jose State's ball-hawking secondary.
Injury situation: New Mexico quarterback Donovan Porterie will play in the bowl game after missing the Lobos' last two regular-season contests with a sprained ankle. New Mexico has suspended reserve tight end Clayton Cardenas, reserve linebacker Justin Clayton and starting defensive end Michael Tuohy for violating NCAA rules during a recruiting visit by Ervin Smiley, who suffered serious injuries to each of his legs after being shot multiple times outside an Albuquerque strip club. Tuohy had 4 sacks and shared the team lead with nine tackles for loss.
Worth noting: This marks the first edition of the New Mexico Bowl. New Mexico and San Jose State defeated New Mexico State and San Diego State this season. New Mexico won 34-28 at New Mexico State and defeated San Diego State 41-14 at home. San Jose State knocked off San Diego State 31-10 at home and won 31-21 at New Mexico State. New Mexico kicker Kenny Byrd was named the Mountain West Conference co-special teams player of the year. Byrd has gone 18-of-22 on field goals this year and has made 24 consecutive attempts from inside 40 yards. San Jose State tied for third place in the Western Athletic Conference, which marked the Spartans' best finish in their 11 seasons as a league member. The Spartans also won eight games for the first time since their 9-2-1 season in 1990. ... San Jose State gave undefeated Boise State its biggest challenge of the season. Boise State won at San Jose State 23-20 by making a field goal as time expired.
Line as of 12/21: New Mexico by 3.
Megargee's pick: New Mexico 24-23
Other Rivals.com Expert picks:
Bobby Burton, Editor-in-chief: San Jose State 21-17.
Bill King, RivalsRadio host: San Jose State 41-20.
Olin Buchanan, National college football writer: San Jose State 31-28.
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