- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Only seven non-BCS football programs are playing in a bowl game for a third consecutive year. It’s easy to rattle off the mid-major powers like Fresno State, Boise State and Louisville among them.

New Mexico, the opponent for Navy tomorrow in the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, isn’t quite at the level of those other teams yet. However, the Lobos have won five games in a row, and their streak of three straight bowl appearances is the longest in program history. But New Mexico hasn’t won a postseason game since topping Western Michigan in the 1961 Aviation Bowl — possibly one reason the team remains outside of the mid-major elite.

“Our guys are definitely thinking, ‘If we don’t win this, we are kind of at a standstill in our program,’” New Mexico quarterback Kole McKamey said. “A win would help us get up to that next level. It would be great to get a bowl game win for our program.”

Though New Mexico (7-4) and Navy (9-2) have never met, the coaching staffs are familiar with each other. New Mexico coach Rocky Long wanted his offensive coaches to learn more about the intricacies of the option offense, so last offseason Long’s staff visited with Navy coach Paul Johnson and his offensive coaches.

“I talked to them some [when they were in Annapolis],” Johnson said. “That happens all the time. We visited with a lot of people. I visited Notre Dame when I was at Georgia Southern.”

Though Long’s Lobos play in the often pass-happy Mountain West Conference, New Mexico likes to pound teams with its ground attack. Junior tailback DonTrell Moore has eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau for the third consecutive season and needs 195 more to become the school’s‘ all-time leader. He has the second-highest total this season (1,083) for a Navy opponent, behind only Army’s Carlton Jones.

“He has good balance, good speed, he’s just a good football player,” Johnson said. “He has good vision.”

Moore runs behind a massive offensive line on which all five starters stand at least 6-foot-3 and weigh at least 297 pounds. Three check in at 325 or above. Johnson called it the biggest group he has coached against since he took the Navy job three years ago.

“We’re used to playing against guys that are bigger than us,” Johnson said. “I think we just have to play our game — move around some and slant. Try not to take them on straight up. Play with low pad level and leverage.”

Neither of these teams throws the ball much; New Mexico and Navy are ranked among the bottom five in the nation in passing offense. Both rely on running the ball, controlling the clock and playing sound defense.

Long’s team incorporates the option into the offensive game plan, but it is not the traditional variety that remains the backbone of Navy’s attack. As for the preseason information sharing, Johnson isn’t worried about it affecting his team’s chance to win tomorrow.

“I think it’s how you execute, when you call it and how you approach it,” he said. “I don’t think there are any secrets. The secret is which scheme you are using, when you call it and the variances you run off of it — just as it is with any offense. Any knowledgeable guy could take your film and go through a couple of seasons and say, ‘OK, I’ve got this down.’ I think the knack of it is when you call what and what meshes with what and what works against this.”

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