New Mexico Bowl Pre Game Fan Report (Part 2)

Coach Rocky Long, brought the Lobos to bowl games in 2003 and 2004, while Spartans coach, Dick Tomey, has bowl experience from his coaching days in Hawaii and Arizona. In terms of big games, there's no question Tomey has the edge. SJSU is 4 and 3 in bowl games dating back to 1947, while the New Mexico Lobo's are 2-6-1 dating back to 1939. This will be a better game than most suspect!

New Mexico-San Jose St Preview

In only his second season at San Jose State, coach Dick Tomey has turned around a struggling program.

Tomey and the Spartans try to cap their resurgent year with a three-game winning streak when they face New Mexico on Dec. 23 in the inaugural New Mexico Bowl at Albuquerque.

The Spartans (8-4) are bowl eligible for the first time since 2000, and have not played in a postseason contest since defeating Central Michigan 48-24 in the California Raisin Bowl on Dec. 8, 1990. It's a big improvement from a year ago, when San Jose State finished 3-8, although it finished the otherwise forgettable season by winning its last two games.

"If you asked me at the beginning of the season, I'd say being in a bowl and having a winning season were our goals," Tomey said. "At the time, they were more like dreams. As the season progressed, we could see that we liked what we had. We liked the way we played."

The Spartans opened 2006 winning six of their first eight games before losing to a pair of bowl-bound conference opponents - No. 9 Boise State and Hawaii - in successive weeks. The Spartans, though, rebounded with two victories to close the regular season, beating Idaho on the road and defeating Fresno State 24-14 at home in the Dec. 2 finale.

The Spartans' offense is powered by a running game which averages 183.8 yards per contest - 15th-most in the nation. Junior running back Yonus Davis failed to reach 100 yards over the season's last four games, but still managed to set career highs with 984 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Sophomore Patrick Perry chipped in 444 rushing yards and seven scores.

San Jose State's passing game is led by quarterback Adam Tafralis, who has completed 170 of 258 passes for a career-high 2,075 yards and 18 touchdowns with six interceptions this season. In his last two games, the junior has completed 24 of 40 passes for 385 yards and four touchdowns.

New Mexico ranks 95th out of 119 Division I-A teams with 109.7 rushing yards per game, but still boasts a talented runner in sophomore Rodney Ferguson, who ran for a career-high 210 yards in the regular-season finale, a 41-14 Lobos rout of San Diego State. He finished the season with 1,132 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

Ferguson looks to help the Lobos (6-6) improve their 2-6-1 all-time bowl record and end a four-game postseason skid, during which they've been outscored 136-60. They are making their fourth bowl appearance in the past five seasons under coach Rocky Long.

New Mexico's last bowl appearance was a 34-19 loss to Navy in the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 30, 2004.

The Lobos are considered the visiting team for this game even though it is being played on their home field at University Stadium. They are just 3-4 at home this season.

"Six weeks ago, you guys were wondering how come we couldn't win at home," Long said. "Over the last three years, we've been a much better road team. So maybe we're at a disadvantage."

Long's team, which is 11-6 in regular-season road games since 2004, has finished strongly despite opening 2006 with a loss to Division I-AA member Portland State on Sept. 2. New Mexico has won four of its last six games.

"I'm very surprised. I'm very happy," Long said. "I was wondering, and our players were wondering, if we could ever win a game. Our team has come a long, long way."

So has quarterback Chris Nelson. The senior, who passed for just 319 yards and one touchdown in five games last year, has completed 95 of 190 passes for 1,247 yards and 11 scores in eight games this season. He is 39-for-73 for 458 yards and four touchdowns in his last three contests.

New Mexico looks for its first bowl victory since 1961, when the Lobos defeated Western Michigan 28-12 in the now-defunct Aviation Bowl at Dayton, Ohio.

The Lobos have not played San Jose State in eight years, but Long expects a competitive game.

"They have some really good skill players. We have some good skill players," Long said. "Their defense runs around and flies around and knocks the hell out of people, and I believe that about our defense."

San Jose State is looking to improve to 11-4-1 in the all-time series with New Mexico (6-6), which it defeated 37-20 at home on Sept. 26, 1998, in the last meeting between the schools.

The Spartans have won six of the last seven meetings with the Lobos.

The Associated Press contributed to this article....

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