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Lobos improve to 3-2 after offensive shootout

J.R. Oppenheim
September 30, 2017 10:25 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Inclement weather and an hour-long delay didn’t prevent Richard McQuarley from busting out a huge game Saturday night.

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Weather stalled the opening of the gates at Dreamstyle Stadium for the Mountain West contest between New Mexico and Air Force. Then lightning and rain arrived between the first and second quarters, prompting a 61-minute weather stoppage.

Despite the interruption, McQuarley caught fire by scoring five touchdowns and propelling UNM to a 56-38 victory to the Falcons. The win was UNM’s first in the conference this season and improved the team’s overall record to 3-2.

The rain delay changed the tempo for both squads. It took a couple of drives for both teams to generate much offense. Almost immediately after returning to the field, both teams found big play after big play.

The changes showed on the stat sheet. Air Force (1-3, 0-2 MW) had 39 yards in the first quarter but then 190 in the second. Meanwhile, UNM amassed 78 yards in the first and 98 in the second.

Yet the momentum swung at various points and UNM capitalized on key moments in the latter two quarters en route to victory. McQuarley played a key factor in that surge. Four of the five touchdowns he scored came in the second half, including two for 63 yards and 65 yards out that helped put the game out of reach for the Falcons.

Those five rushing touchdowns matched a school record for most in a single game, and his 179 yards marked a career best. He contributed heavily to UNM’s 509 total yards offensively.

“Tonight I was being patient with Lamar [Jordan, UNM’s quarterback], make sure I was getting good handoffs,” McQuarley said. “The offensive line did an amazing job. They were just telling me how they were playing, and we had plans on the sidelines what we were going to do. As they [Air Force] showed what they showed on defense, our offensive line had an answer for it.”

UNM first found the end zone on its second drive when Lamar Jordan busted out a 70-yard run on the possession’s first play. An illegal block penalty negated the score, but that didn’t stop the Lobos.

Following the penalty, UNM steadily chewed up yardage. The Lobos capped off the 13-yard drive with a McQuarley 3-yard touchdown run. It was McQuarley’s first score of the season after leading the team a year ago with 18 touchdowns.

Air Force countered UNM’s first score almost immediately. Taking the ball at the 25 on a touchback, quarterback Arion Worthman connected with receiver Ronald Cleveland on third down and 15 to spark a drive.

The Falcons made it to the New Mexico 48-yard line before the first quarter ended. Yet the weather interfered and the teams took to the locker room rather than return to the field to start the second quarter. Officials called a lightning delay at 5:43 p.m. as rain began to fall and UNM leading 7-0.

The teams returned to the field at 6:34 p.m. and resumed play 10 minutes later. Coming out of the delay, Air Force didn’t seemed phased and continued to drive. Tim McVey capped off a 12-play, 75-yard drive with a 15-yard TD spurt to the right side, tying the game at 7 apiece.

It didn’t take long for the Lobos to respond, either. UNM regained its lead three plays later when Lamar Jordan found Jay Griffin IV for a 71-yard pass as more lightning flashed southeast of the stadium.

Air Force found two more big plays on its next drive, including a 28-yard Worthman run and a 28-yard Worthman scoring pass to Geraud Sanders. That knotted the game a second time at 14.

The Falcons then pushed ahead 21-14 with another sustained drive of 11 plays for 72 yards. An abbreviated five-minute halftime ensued, a product of the earlier rain delay.

“Defensivley, we came out really strong and stopped them right away. They had some things that we wanted to improve on, and they obviously made some checks and their quarterback made some good plays,” linebacker Alex Hart said. “Their running backs did, too. But it’s tough in those situations when they have time to make those checks. We’ve just got to adjust to them.

Then in the third quarter, things swung back into UNM’s favor with three touchdown scores. One came on a huge 49-yard touchdown pass from Lamar Jordan to Delane Hart-Johnson.

UNM kept the Falcons out of the end zone in the third. Their only score came on a 33-yard Luke Strebel field goal. The Lobos also benefitted from two Air Force fumbles. Jake Rothschiller and Jordan Flack recovered those fumbles to put UNM in a strong position to score. Through three quarters, UNM led 35-24.

UNM never relinquished the lead in the final quarter, instead alternating touchdowns with Air Force. All three came from McQuarley, including his two runs of 60-plus yards. His first one in the quarter was from five yards out off Flack’s fumble recovery on a kickoff.

Worthman threw both of Air Force’s fourth-quarter scored, one 21 yards to Cleveland and another 17 yards to Ryan Reffitt.

Although Air Force’s adjustments during the rain delay led to second-quarter scores, UNM’s defense found ways to contain the Falcons. They sacked Worthman four times while their 11 tackles led to 51 lost Air Force yards.

Jacob Girgle paced UNM’s defense with 13 tackles while Rothschiller added 12 and Alex Hart had nine tackles and a sack.

UNM now has a bye week before traveling to Fresno State on Oct. 14.

Credits

J.R. Oppenheim

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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