Comeback Bid Fall Short, Rams Lose to Lobos 37-34

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.(AP) -- Wes Zunker zoned out the crowd and blocked out the pressure. His only thought -- concentrate on the moment.

Zunker's 33-yard field goal as time expired Friday night gave New Mexico a 37-34 win over Colorado State and kept the Lobos' bowl hopes alive.

"I just kind of tuned everything out and just tried to focus on what I had to do. It was just another kick for me," said Zunker. Zunker's game-winner -- his 13th straight successful field goal this season -- was set up by CSU quarterback Bradlee Van Pelt's fumble of a snap as he stood in the shotgun with just under a minute left.

New Mexico defensive end Kyle Coulter beat Van Pelt to the ball and recovered at the CSU 17. Two plays later, Zunker kicked the winning field goal.

Zunker said he didn't see the ball split the uprights, but didn't have to. "I knew it was good when I hit it," he said. Van Pelt took the blame for the fumbled snap and loss.

"The snap was there," he said. "It was a momentary loss of concentration and it went right through my hands. I'm probably going to have to live with it because I feel I let my teammates down."

Zunker's kick and halfback DonTrell Moore's record-setting performance gave New Mexico (6-4, 3-2) it's first win over CSU since the Mountain West Conference was formed in 1999. It also was the first win for New Mexico over CSU in Albuquerque since 1988.

The loss was the second straight for CSU (5-5, 2-3) and hurt the Rams' bid for a fifth straight trip to a bowl.

Moore rushed for a career-high 242 yards and scored three times to set the school single-season record for touchdowns.

Zunker added field goals of 27 and 40 yards, and that was just enough to offset a solid performance by Van Pelt. Until the fumbled snap, Van Pelt had kept his team in position to win.

"He made one bad play, but made a 100 good ones before that," said CSU coach Sonny Lubick. Van Pelt rallied the Rams from a 31-14 second-half deficit, engineering a pair of fourth-quarter scoring drives. He threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to David Anderson on a fourth-and-goal with 10:18 left, and tied the game at 34-all with a 1-yard run on fourth down with 3:07 left.

CSU twice converted on fourth down situations on that drive. CSU's defense then held New Mexico and forced a punt with 1:02 left. The Rams took over at their 32, and the fumbled snap occurred on their first play from scrimmage.

"We couldn't protect the lead and their quarterback was making great plays," New Mexico coach Rocky Long said. "I thought we were going into overtime, but sometimes if you hang in there, you get a lucky break. For all the good plays he (Van Pelt) made, he finally made a mistake."

New Mexico dominated the game until the fourth quarter. With the Lobos' offensive line opening big holes, Moore repeatedly had runs of 10 yards or more and scored from 8, 22 and 45 yards in the second quarter.

"I feel more confident in my execution because I know the holes are going to be there," Moore said. "We know that if we stay consistent, stay diligent, our execution will pay off." Moore has scored 17 touchdowns this season, breaking the previous record of 16 set by wide receiver Terence Mathis in 1989.

Van Pelt and place-kicker Jeff Babcock carried CSU. Van Pelt was the Rams' most effective weapon on offense with his tackle-breaking runs and passing. He had 300 of CSU's 328 total yards -- 83 rushing and 217 passing. The rest of the Rams' points came on Babcock field goals of 22, 24, 40 and 33 yards.

Moore's first touchdown with 11:48 left in the second quarter was set up by quarterback Casey Kelly's 52-yard run on the option to the CSU 30. Moore took it the rest of the way with four straight rushes.

Moore scored again with 6:15 remaining in the second, after CSU's Dexter Wynn fumbled a punt at the Rams' 30 and Josh Bazinet recovered. Wynn redeemed himself with an 88-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, and Van Pelt scored on the first play. A two-point conversion pass from Van Pelt to David Anderson cut the New Mexico lead to 17-14.

New Mexico needed just six plays to go 80 yards, with Moore racing the final 45 and giving the Lobos a 24-14 lead at halftime.

The Lobos opened the second half with a four-play, 72-yard drive that took just 1:43. The drive was punctuated by Kelly tossing a 41-yard scoring pass to Dwight Counter.

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