Utah 31, New Mexico 24
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ Utah remains in the Western Athletic Conference title hunt, thanks to the poise and patience of quarterback Mike Fouts and the muscle of defensive end Chad Kauhaahaa.
Fouts, the nephew of NFL Hall of Famer Dan Fouts, threw for two touchdowns and ran for one Saturday night, while the 6-foot-2, 253-pound Kauhaahaa came up with a fourth quarter, fourth-down defensive stop that helped Utah hold off New Mexico 31-24.
The win kept Utah (8-2, 6-1 WAC) on the heels of Brigham Young (10-1, 6-0) in the league’s Mountain Division.
``We’re back in it again,″ said Utah coach Ron McBride. ``We had a lot of huge plays, from Donny Utu’s touchdown to Chad’s tackle.″
Fouts scored from 1 yard out on Utah’s opening drive, then threw second-half TD passes of 54 yards to Jeff Jax and 25 yards to Utu. Utah’s offensive line gave Fouts plenty of time to find his receivers most of the night, and he responded by connecting on 17 of 25 passes for 240 yards.
Kauhaahaa stuffed New Mexico tailback Lennox Gordon on a fourth-and-inches play at the Utah 30 with the Utes holding onto a 24-17 lead with 10:33 left.
McBride said Utah’s focus was epitomized by Kauhaahaa’s big play.
``We played with a lot of heart and desire tonight, and when we do that we find a way to win,″ McBride said.
Utah also got a 1-yard TD from Juan Johnson and a 29-yard field goal from Daniel Pulsipher.
New Mexico (5-5, 2-5) struggled offensively throughout the game against Utah’s swarming defense, but quarterback Donald Sellers kept the Lobos close by scoring a career-high three touchdowns on runs of 17, 4 and 4 yards.
Utah’s first two drives each went for 80 yards, and consumed more than 13 minutes of the first half. Sellers, meanwhile, was only 2-for-9 passing in the first half.
``The first half didn’t go at all like we needed it to,″ said New Mexico coach Dennis Franchione. ``They had two long drives, took a lot of time off the clock and took us out of our (offensive) rhythm.″
New Mexico, which converted on just one of its first eight third-down attempts, cut Utah’s lead to 24-17 on Sellers’ second touchdown. The Lobos were 4-for-4 in third-down situations in the drive and Sellers went the final four yards with 2:16 left in the third quarter.
Sellers appeared to be trapped at the Utah 7, but managed to dodge three defenders and just got the ball across the goal line.
New Mexico was on the move again on its next possession and faced a fourth-and-inches at the Utah 30. The Lobos tried to go wide with Gordon, but Kauhaahaa broke through to stop him.
Fouts then found Utu open in the corner of the end zone for a 31-17 Utah lead.
Sellers got the Lobos again back within a touchdown with an 11-play, 83-yard drive in 2 1/2 minutes.
Sellers scrambled in with 4:12 left, but Utah was able to run out all but the final 12 seconds.
Sellers accounted for 252 of New Mexico’s 380 total yards. He rushed for 90 yards and was 14-for-26 for another 162 yards.