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Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Lobos know stopping Jackson is huge

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS -- New Mexico linebacker Daniel Gawronski realizes the imposing challenge the Lobos face trying to slow down Oregon State halfback Steven Jackson in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Enough that Gawronski figures an extra dose of respect can't hurt.

"We come to play defense, no matter who we play, it just happens we're playing Mr. Jackson," Gawronski said Tuesday of the Pac-10's leading rusher this season.

Jackson expects Gawronski's soft touch approach to disappear by game time Wednesday.

"You can tell he's from the South, a lot of respect," Jackson said of the Lobo from Marshville, N.C., who leads the team in tackles with 93. "There's going to be a lot of intense football played out there."

The game features two of the best underclass backs in the country. Jackson, who will decide after the bowl game whether to return for his senior year or leave Corvallis for the NFL draft, scored 17 touchdowns this season and rushed for 1,396 yards.

"They run a lot of screens and a lot draws to get him the ball," said New Mexico coach Rocky Long.

New Mexico sophomore DonTrell Moore set single season school records with 1,438 yards rushing, 21 touchdowns and nine games of over 100 yards rushing.

"It ain't no secret what they're going to do," All-PAC 10 linebacker Richard Seigler said of New Mexico. "They're going to run."

Moore and Jackson, though, will be going against two of the best defenses against the run.

New Mexico (8-4) ranked fourth nationally this season, allowing just over 80 yards a game. The Beavers (7-5) ranked seventh (91 ypg).

If Jackson and Moore can't find enough holes and the offenses have to rely on the pass, the Beavers seem to have the edge.

Senior quarterback Derek Anderson set single season school records with 3,736 passing yards and 3,614 yards in total offense. Against Southern Cal, Anderson threw for 485 yards.

But he also has had trouble handling pressure and threw one more interception (23) than touchdown passes.

"He's much better now than he was early in the season," said Long. "Against Southern Cal, he took a beating and still hung in there. He was good no matter how many times he got hit."

The strength of New Mexico's defense is the blitzes. The Lobos have an assortment of them and had 37 sacks this season.

"It looks like they've got too many men on the field," said Oregon State coach Mike Riley.

A New Mexico win Wednesday would end a 42-year drought by the Lobos in bowl games. Not that they've had many chances. A win over Oregon State also would mark only the fourth time New Mexico has won nine games in a season.

The Lobos, who lost to UCLA (27-13) in last year's Las Vegas Bowl, are making back-to-back bowl trips for the first time since 1947 and only their third appearance since they beat Western Michigan 28-12 in the one-time-only Aviation Bowl in 1961.

Long and and most of the Lobos say they feel no pressure or sense of urgency in trying to end the bowl victory drought.

"These guys weren't even born and I can hardly remember the '60s," Long said.

"I don't care, it doesn't have anything to do with us," Gawronski said.

The exception is Moore, a native New Mexican.

"There is a sense of urgency, but it's because we've had a great year and this can finalize it," he said.