ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — This New Mexico team was nothing like the one Boise State routed last season.
Joe Southwick passed for 311 yards and three touchdowns and Timmy Smith knocked down a fourth-down pass with two minutes to go Saturday to help No. 24 Boise State beat New Mexico 32-29 on Saturday.
Boise State (3-1, 1-0 Mountain West) led 25-0 at halftime, turning three Lobos’ fumbles into 18 points.
New Mexico (2-3, 0-1) turned two Broncos’ second-half fumbles into touchdowns to help close the gap. The Lobos did not throw a pass in the second half until its final play, but baffled the Broncos with their triple-option offense.
“I’ve been preaching this forever,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “You never let a team off the hook. I will give all credit to New Mexico; they took advantage and made plays. It was hard and we fumbled and they capitalized. It can change fast and I hope this team learns that.”
After New Mexico forced Boise State into a 44-yard field-goal attempt that failed, the Lobos took over on their 27. Three plays left the Lobos facing a fourth-and-4. New Mexico brought in starting quarterback B.R. Holbrook for the passing situation, but Smith batted away the toss that was intended for Lamaar Smith.
“The second half shows you what this can be,” first-year New Mexico coach Bob Davie said. “The atmosphere in the stadium, to be honest, was electric. You could feel it. And when that atmosphere is electric and we play decent to good football, you can see the results of that. It looked like a different team.”
The Lobos have already matched last year’s win total. They lost 45-0 to Boise State in 2011.
Jay Ajayi had 118 yards and a touchdown on six carries for Boise State.
New Mexico quarterback Cole Gautsche scored twice and added a 2-point conversion, carrying it 71 yards on 11 carries. Kasey Carrier added 86 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. The Lobos ran for 324 yards.
“That’s what’s so difficult about their offense,” Boise State nose guard Mike Atkinson said. “They have so many options. They run the triple-option offense and a lot of teams don’t do that anymore so it’s really hard to pick up their schemes.”
Two fumbles by Carrier in the first half led to scoring drives for the Broncos.
The first came at the Lobos’ 43 and five plays later, Southwick hit Chris Potter with a 10-yard TD pass to make it 10-0.
On the next possession, a long New Mexico drive came up empty when Carrier fumbled on the Boise State 19. It took the Broncos just three runs from Jay Ajayi to go 81 yards for the score.
“We slowed them down in the first half but we also had those turnovers,” Petersen said. “We capitalized with offensive football and that was little nerve wracking because if they get you out of the gap and you don’t capitalize well, you’re going to have issues and that’s what happened.”
In the second half, Boise State’s turnovers got New Mexico (2-3, 0-1) back in the game.
It started when Dallas Burroughs fumbled the kickoff and New Mexico recovered at the 26. Jhurell Presley capped the scoring drive with a 3-yard run to make it 25-7. Carrier added a 5-yard scoring run late in the third.
Southwick connected with Shane Williams-Rhodes on an 8-yard touchdown pass to give Boise State a 32-14 lead with 13:49 left in the fourth, but the Lobos responded.
Williams-Rhodes fumbled at the 48 and New Mexico’s Joe Stoner returned it to the 1, where Gautsche carried it over to cut the lead to 32-29 with 7:42 left.
“The one on the goal line was the turning point for them,” Atkinson said. “They said they never heard the crowd that loud. When we come to town, we expect big games. We have a target on us all season and they did a great job.”