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New Mexico Stuns No. 9 Utah : WAC: Big fourth-down play leads to game- winning field goal for Lobos in 23-21 victory.

November 06, 1994|From Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was fourth down and a New Mexico team that had consistently come up short this season faced one of the best defensive units in the nation.

Coach Dennis Franchione didn't blink and quarterback Stoney Case never threw a bigger pass.

Case bailed New Mexico out of a fourth-and-three from its own 27 with a 56-yard pass to Gavin Pearlman with 3:10 left to set up Nathan Vail's game-winning 22-yard field goal Saturday as the Lobos stunned No. 9 and previously undefeated Utah, 23-21, in a Western Athletic Conference game.

"There was some doubt in my mind whether we'd go for it," Case said. "I started walking toward the sideline and coach waved me back out. I put up four fingers to make sure he knew it was fourth down and he shook his head yes."

Case found the 5-foot-8 Pearlman momentarily open at the Lobos' 35. Pearlman slipped a tackle by Utah's Keith Harrison and sprinted to the Utes' 17.

"In practice drills, we always practice on getting as much as we can," said Pearlman, who had five catches for a career-high 123 yards against a Utah defense ranked 10th overall and third against the pass.

Pearlman got enough to set up Vail's game-winner and give a New Mexico team that has lost five games by a touchdown or less this season the biggest victory in school history.

New Mexico, 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the WAC, ended the Utes' unblemished season with a combination of Case's quarterbacking and a young defense that held the potent Utes' offense scoreless in the second half.

Utah (8-1, 5-1) came into the game with the nation's sixth best offense, averaging 40.3 points a game. New Mexico's defense, with five freshmen starters, was ranked 105th and giving up 34 points a game.

Utah Coach Ron McBride chalked up the loss to New Mexico's ability to control the ball and the clock, poor tackling and other mistakes that eventually caught up with the Utes.

"All the little things that happen in a game are the things we didn't do well today," McBride said.

New Mexico dominated the second half, holding the Utes to 31 yards in the third quarter, after giving up 305 in the first half when Utah built a 21-11 halftime lead.

"Our third quarter was horrendous," said McBride.

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