Lobos match biggest comeback ever, rally past Utes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Brian Urlacher witnessed another improbable comeback. This time by his alma mater.

With the NFL superstar on the sidelines, the Lobos rode the passing of freshman quarterback Donovan Porterie to a 34-31 win over Utah on Thursday night.

Urlacher was the star of the Chicago Bears' fourth-quarter rally against the Arizona Cardinals on Monday night. The former New Mexico All-American flew into town Thursday and stayed until New Mexico clinched the win by stopping the Utes on a fourth-and-2 at the New Mexico 48 with 1:00 left.

"He played in one outstanding comeback and got to see another one tonight," New Mexico coach Rocky Long said. "I wish he'd be around more often. I was thinking about putting him in uniform since we couldn't stop them in the first half."

Porterie threw for three touchdowns and 350 yards and Martelius Epps got the game-winner with a 1-yard touchdown run with 2:09 left as the Lobos matched their biggest comeback ever.

Porterie, making his second start of the season, struggled through a miserable first half but then ignited New Mexico's offense with the help of wide receivers Travis Brown and Marcus Smith.

"The freshman quarterback played very well. What can you say," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "That's a heck of a night. He tore us up."

New Mexico (4-4, 2-2 MWC) trailed 24-3 late in the first half after Utah (4-4, 2-2 MWC) scored on four straight possessions. With New Mexico's running game going nowhere and a nervous and unsure Porterie overthrowing receivers, the young quarterback suddenly found a groove.

Porterie led the Lobos on an 83-yard, five-play drive late in the first half that took just 1:09. He hit Brown with a 40-yard pass to the Utah 48 and then two plays later found Smith open over the middle on a slant route. Smith took the 15-yard pass and outraced
the Utes to the end zone. That was the start of 24 straight points by the Lobos.

Porterie hit Smith again with a 42-yard TD pass -- on another slant route -- less than a minute into the second half. That finished a drive that took just four plays and a minute and 42 seconds.

Lobo kicker Kenny Byrd cut the Utes' lead to 24-20 with a 21-yard field goal with 4:17 left in the third quarter and Porterie's 5-yard scoring pass to Brown with 10:20 left in the game gave the Lobos a 27-24 lead.

Utah regained the lead on a 5-yard TD pass from Brett Ratliff to Brian Hernandez with 6:18 remaining. The officials initially signaled the catch good but then reversed it. After reviewing the play for several minutes, they ruled Hernandez had possession when his feet touched down at the back of the end zone.

Hernandez was sure he had possession and was inbounds.

"I thought I had two or three feet inbounds. I didn't even think it was close," he said.

The score was set up by cornerback Eric Shyne's interception of a Porterie pass that bounced off Lobo receiver Thomas Wilson near the Utah 40. Shyne returned it to the New Mexico 23 and New Mexico was hit with a personal foul that moved it to the 8.

"I was feeling pretty good," Whittingham said. "All we needed to do was get a stop and we get the victory. But we couldn't get the stop."

Porterie led the Lobos on the game-winning drive with several clutch completions. He hit Smith with an 18-yard pass, which Smith caught between a trio of Utah defenders. Porterie scrambled for 16 yards to the Utah 27 on a third-and-9 play and halfback Rodney Ferguson ran for 18 yards to the Utah 9. Porterie then hit Brown for a 9-yard pass to the 1.

Brown said the Lobos had worked on the slant route all week.

"We came in [at halftime] and talked it over and we went out and executed just like [offensive coordinator] Bob Toledo planned all week," Brown said. "We ran a lot of crossing routes this week because we knew they played a lot of man and we wanted to get a lot of guys freed up."

Utah dominated the first half. Halfback Darryl Poston scored on runs of 7 and 8 yards, Ratliff tossed a 26-yard TD pass to Derrek Richards and Louie Sakoda kicked a 19-yard field goal.

Porterie, who completed just three of his first 11 passes, was 19-for-33 and became the first Lobo quarterback in three years to throw for more than 300 yards. Brown had nine catches for 154 yards and Smith had 136 yards on just 4 catches.

The comeback from 21 points down matched New Mexico's rally against UTEP on Nov. 23, 1974, in El Paso.


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