Certain things weren’t meant to be set in stone.
For example, an 0-12 season for the UNM football team.
The Lobos defeated Colorado State, 29-27, thanks to a redemptive performance by sophomore kicker James Aho, who booted a field goal in the final 12 seconds at University Stadium on Saturday.
The perfect kick by Aho ended the Lobos’ bid at imperfection and saved 17 members of the football team’s senior class going winless and losing their last game at home.
First-year head coach Mike Locksley, who has had his share of struggles on and off the field this year, was at a loss for words after earning his first victory as a collegiate head coach.
“It’s been a long time coming, and it’s been a long year, but as I’ve said many times after some tough losses, I haven’t been more proud of a team than this team, and I’ve been a part of some great teams in my 18 years of coaching,” Locksley said. “I’ve learned as a coach from this team and the character that this team has shown week in and week out, through adversity, through losses, through injuries, losing some key guys. They stuck together and that’s what families do. This team is a family, and we won it together.”
Just when Locksley looked primed to get his first win, quarterback Donovan Porterie allowed CSU back into the game.
Up 23-21 and driving, Porterie was baited into a crucial mistake. In the fourth quarter, Porterie was picked off by CSU’s Nick Oppenneer on the Rams’ 3-yard line, and 97 yards later UNM trailed 27-23.
But Porterie regained his composure, leading the Lobos into a field goal position twice thereafter, and the last time set up Aho’s game-ending kick.
The victory concluded a UNM losing streak which reached 14 games, dating back to the Lobos’ last victory on Oct. 18, 2008, when UNM trounced San Diego State, 70-7, in Albuquerque.
Remarkably, the Lobos carried momentum from a hotly contested game against BYU.
And this time, the result was different.
Porterie and Co. opened the game in the same fashion as they did against the Cougars.
The quarterback led an opening drive that covered 80 yards on 12 plays and hit wide receiver Victor James in the corner of the end zone to put the Lobos up 7-0 early.
The Rams answered with a 67-yard drive, finished by running back John Mosure, who rambled into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown. Mosure rushed for 179 yards off 27 carries, including two touchdowns.
However, CSU head coach Steve Fairchild said he was disgusted with his team’s lack of execution in all three phases of the game.
“I was not pleased at all, and we should have won that game,” Fairchild said, whose Rams fell to 3-8 overall and 0-7 in the Mountain West Conference. “We got a bunch of kids in there playing hard and doing some good things. We just can’t get everybody on the same page. We continue to do things like line up wrong — drop balls — and it’s our own doing. You get what you deserve.”
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox
Later in the first quarter, Porterie was intercepted by CSU defensive back Gerald Thomas with the game tied at 7.
However, the Rams couldn’t capitalize on the pick.
The senior quarterback would take UNM on another scoring drive in the first half, but not before Aho made his first field goal of the day from 21 yards to give the Lobos a three-point advantage, 10-7.
On the ensuing kick off, CSU returner Alex Square had the ball knocked loose by UNM defensive back Frankie Solomon. UNM recovered.
Nine plays later, Porterie found receiver Quintell Solomon on a 21-yard touchdown strike. The score put UNM up 17-7, the Lobos’ largest lead of the season.
UNM found its way to the win because of the team’s experience level, Porterie said.
“About two or three other times this season we have been in similar situations,” he said. “This week a lot of guys stepped up and came up big for us and made a lot of plays for us down the stretch. We are leaving University Stadium as winners.”