Lobo Classics: 2005 Football at Missouri
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – NCAA Division I college football perhaps more than any other sport over the years has been separated the most by the “haves” and the “have nots.” Quite simply there are just some games that the final result should never be in question. In those games, it’s usually not if a “superior” team will win, but rather, by how much will they win by?
For the University of New Mexico football program, unfortunately, more times than not, before even the opening coin toss, they fall under the presumed category of the “have nots.” This is especially true when playing against programs that are aligned within what is referred to today as a “Power 5” conference.
This was the exact scenario that faced the Lobos early in the 2005 season as they took to the road to take on the University of Missouri, then of the Big 12 conference. The Lobos were not supposed to go up to Columbia, Missouri and beat the Tigers. Heck, most people outside of the program and the state of New Mexico likely didn’t even expect the Lobos to compete. Afterall, there was so many factors working against the Lobos going into the game.
For example, under head coach Rocky Long, who at the time was in his eighth season at the helm of his alma mater, the Lobos were 0-14 in non-conference games played outside of the state of New Mexico. On top of that, the Lobos were facing one of the most dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the country at the time in Brad Smith. Heading into the game, Smith was the third player ever in NCAA Division I history to have rushed for at least 3,500 yards and have thrown for at least 7,000 in his career and he still had most of his senior season to go.
Additionally, running quarterbacks were an unsolved mystery for Long and the Lobos to that point as they were 0-4 against non-spread exclusive QBs that rushed for over 100 yards in a game. Throw in the fact that out of the 50,000-plus fans in attendance that night, only a small section of about 400 Lobo fans donning cherry and silver were on-hand to cheer on the Lobos as they otherwise were tucked away in an upper deck.
Impossible odds to overcome, right? No reason to even try since history was clearly not on the side of the Lobos, right? Afterall, the narrative of the “haves” of college football making light work of the “have nots” is all but a foregone conclusion in almost every instance.
Fortunately, however, Long and the Lobos were not interested in reliving any of the past history, but rather, they were interested in letting their play on the field decide how things would go down that night in Columbia, Missouri, and thus giving us our fourth installment of a “Lobo Classics.”
While the game against the Tigers was the Lobos’ second of the 2005 season, it was also technically going to be their second game that week as the Lobos opened the year the Monday prior at home against UNLV. The Lobos, thanks to a late fourth quarter interception by Gabriel Fulbright (spoiler alert, he plays a factor at Missouri as well), went on to hold off UNLV, 24-22. Despite the unthinkably quick turnaround from their game at home against UNLV to their road game at Missouri, the Lobos came out strong against the Tigers.
After Missouri won the toss and deferred to the second half, the Lobos had the ball first. On that opening drive, the Lobos would pick up four first downs and engineered a methodical 10-play, 69-yard drive that culminated with a six-yard touchdown pass from Kole McKamey to tight end John Mulchrone. McKamey would go on to account for three more touchdowns in the game as he threw for two more and ran one in as well.
On the Tigers’ first possession of the game, Smith quickly led Missouri into the redzone on just four plays. However, once in the redzone, the Lobo defense was able to deny the endzone and the Tigers were forced to settle for a field goal. The score remainded 7-3 in favor of the Lobos through the end of the first quarter. As that quarter expired, the Tigers were in possession of the ball and early in the second quarter, that drive ended with the Tigers once more having to settle for a field goal.
Now leading by just a point and having punted the ball on their last two drives, the Lobos put together a scoring drive to go up 14-6. That drive, which lasted 2:37, went 78 yards in eight plays and culminated in a 25-yard TD pass from McKamey to Hank Baskett. That was the first of what ended up being three TD catches that night for the senior Clovis native.
The Tigers and Lobos then traded punts over the next two possessions of the game, giving the ball back to Missouri with just over 4:30 left in the first half. The ensuing drive was essentially the Brad Smith show as he drove the Tigers 80 yards on 14 plays for the game-tying score. On that drive alone that lasted exactly four minutes, Smith accounted for 12 of the Tigers’ 14 plays as he threw the ball six times and rushed it six times as well. Actually, Smith accounted for 13 of the Tigers’ 15 plays that drive if you include the successful rush attempt on the two-point conversion that tied the game at 14-all.
Getting the ball back with only 31 seconds left in the first half and already having to send their defense out to start the second half regardless, the Lobos elected to take a knee, run out the clock and head into the locker room tied at 14-all with Missouri.
Just as the Lobo offense got off to a great start at the beginning of the game, the Lobo defense did so as well to start the second half. After the Tigers returned the second-half kickoff to their own 40, the Lobos quickly made it 3rd-and-7 after just two plays. On that ensuing 3rd-down play, the Lobo defense came up with a monster play as Marcus Parker sacked Smith for what was officially a 15-yard loss. On that sack, the ball popped free from Smith’s grip and was ruled at the time as a fumble. With the ball on the ground, Evroy Thompson scooped the ball at the Missouri 28-yardline and then proceeded to carry the ball to the endzone for the defensive touchdown. That play would be reviewed, but stood as called and the Lobos now lead 21-14.
In each of their next two drives, Smith and the Tigers found the endzone and took a 28-21 lead with just over six minutes left in the third quarter. The Lobos then went 3-and-out giving the ball back to the hot-handed Missouri offense at the 5:03 mark of the third quarter, but the Lobos were able to eventually force the Tigers to punt with 2:22 remaining.
The ensuing Lobo possession saw a pair of chunk plays that quickly moved the ball down the field and ultimately into the endzone. On the first play of the drive, McKamey and Baskett hooked up for a 30-yard gain on 1st-and-10 from the UNM 34-yardline. Now in Tiger territory, the Lobos suffered a loss of five yards on the next play to set up a 2nd-and-15 from the Missouri 41-yardline. For the next play, the Long and the Lobos went into the bag of trick plays and came up with a running back pass play for senior star DonTrell Moore. Moore’s pass went to Baskett who high-balled the throw at the Missouri 20-yardline and beat a pair of Tiger defenders for the reception. Baskett then proceeded to out-run a quartet of Tiger defensive backs on his way to the endzone for the tying score.
The Tigers’ next possession closed out the third quarter and carried over into the fourth, but the Lobos forced a turnover on downs as Smith’s pass on 4th-and-10 from the UNM 36-yardline was incomplete.
Now the Lobos, with momentum rolling on their side, had the ball back early in the fourth quarter. On the initial fourth quarter possession, the McKamey to Baskett connection, or “KANK” showed up once more. This time it was a 47-yard pass on a post route that brought the ball all the way down to the Missouri 7-yardline.
On first-and-goal, the Lobos gave the ball to their all-time leading rusher in Moore, and the Roswell native would gain four yards to bring the ball to the three-yardline. After an incomplete pass, McKamey, the pride of Artesia, ran the option to the right and decided to keep it as went into the endzone untouched, giving the Lobos a 35-28 lead.
With 12:10 showing on the clock, Smith and the Tigers got the ball back. On that drive, the Tigers would go on a methodical 12-play, 61-yard drive that ate up 4:12 of game clock and tied the game at 35-all with 7:58 left in the fourth quarter.
At this pivotal juncture of the game, the Lobos needed to both milk some clock and continue to score points. And that’s exactly what the Lobos did.
After getting the ball back at the 7:58 mark, the Lobos would go on a 10-play, 57-yard drive that used up 3:36 of game time. While a touchdown would have been the preferred result, the Lobos did add to their score as Kenny Bird made good on a 40-yard field goal. That kick by Byrd was a career-long as his previous long was 37 yards.
Now there was just 4:22 remaining on the clock and the Tigers were getting the ball back with great field position as the kickoff went out-of-bounds, setting Missouri up at their own 35-yardline to start the drive. After a pair of short gains on first and second down, the Tigers faced a 3rd-and-3 from their own 42-yardline.
Here is where the game flipped in favor of the Lobos, and here is where Gabriel Fulbright emerged as a clutch defensive star once more.
On that 3rd-down play, Smith was pressured and threw the ball right into the chest of Fulbright for what was his second pick of the game and 14th in his Lobo career to that point.
The Fulbright INT not only suddenly ended the Tigers drive, but it set the Lobos up in prime scoring position with a chance to ice the game as he returned his pick 16 yards to the Missouri 30-yardline. After the first play on that drive, the Lobos suddenly needed less than half of those yards as Moore carried the ball to the left for 19 yards, bringing it to the Missouri 11-yardline. An incomplete pass and then a short two-yard run by Moore made it 3rd-and-8 from the Missouri 9-yardline.
Leading by just three points, with the game clock just over two minutes remaining and not wanting to give the ball back to Smith in a scenario where a touchdown could win it for Missouri, Long and the Lobos decided to go for the throat of the Tigers right there and put the game away.
The result was nothing short of perfection as McKamey threw a perfectly-placed ball on a fade route to Baskett. The former high-jumper, who was known to be able to leap seven-feet, high-balled the McKamey throw and came down with his left foot inbounds for the touchdown, giving the Lobos a 45-35 lead with 2:01 left on the clock.
Upon getting the ball back, the Tigers and Smith quickly moved the ball into Lobo territory where they got as close as the UNM 28-yardline. There with 1st-and-10, Smith proceeded to throw three-straight incomplete passes and then with 46 seconds left, was sacked by Evroy Thompson on 4th down to turn the ball over and effectively end the game.
Despite giving the ball up on downs, the Tigers still had two timeouts left, so the Lobos were forced to run at least one play from scrimmage. That play was a waste-time scramble and intentional eight-yard loss by McKamey, prompting a timeout by Missouri.
Now with 24 ticks remaining, the Lobos were able to get into the best formation in football, the victory formation and proceeded to kneel the ball down twice to officially end the game, 45-35.
The win, while monumental considering the aforementioned history pitting against the Lobos was also significant in another respect as it made Rocky Long the winningest coach in Lobo football history, surpassing Roy Johnson’s 41 wins from 1920-1930.
Long, who has since returned to the Lobos as the defensive coordinator, went on to coach the Lobos three more seasons after the 2005 season and ended his tenure with 65 wins.
About Lobo Classics
The goal of the “Lobo Classics” series is to highlight some of the greatest moments in the history of UNM Athletics. These types of moments can consist of specific games, individual performances, record-breaking achievements or even entire championship seasons. It is our intention that during this period of uncertainty, we can bring some joy and happiness to our unwaveringly loyal fans that make up Lobo Nation!
As part of this endeavor, Lobo Athletics wants to make this an interactive project and are opening up for suggestions from Lobo fans everywhere. Fans can make suggestions that they would like to see highlighted in “Lobo Classics” by tweeting to @UNMLobos and using the hashtag #LoboClassics. Fans can also submit suggestions through email: email@example.com.