New Mexico wants to avenge last year's Hail Mary-aided loss to Aggies

Updated: October 2, 2003, 5:06 PM ET

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Every Thursday is Hail Mary day on the practice field for New Mexico's defense -- the pass, not the prayer.

This week's session on how to defend against the so-named last-second, desperation pass might run a little longer given the team the Lobos are taking on Saturday night.

It's Utah State, the same Aggies who last year trailed New Mexico 38-31 with three seconds left in regulation, but sent the game into overtime when quarterback Jose Fuentes and wide receiver Chris Stallworth hooked up for 32-yard Hail Mary connection.

Utah State went on to win the game in overtime 45-44, the Lobos' final mistake being a missed extra point by freshman Kenny Byrd.

"We had a little bit of luck that day," said Utah State coach Mick Dennehy.

Utah State (1-3) and New Mexico (2-3) meet again Saturday and New Mexico coach Rocky Long expects both teams to take something from last year's as they get ready for Saturday.

"Obviously, they have confidence they can beat us," Long said.

Long hopes last year's tough loss will help motivate his team, which has had four straight emotion-tapping games against Texas Tech, Brigham Young, Washington State and New Mexico State.

That has Long concerned the Lobos may be suffering from a little midseason malaise.

"I'm a little concerned with our physical and emotional state," Long said this week. "After watching the (New Mexico State) film, I thought we were leg weary. The way we're running around on offense and defense as compared to the Washington State game, it looks like we're running in sand."

"Our kids have gotten emotionally geared up every week and I hope we can keep it going," Long said.

Utah State, a member of the Sun Belt Conference, has faced a tough preconference schedule that included Utah, No. 12 ranked Nebraska and Arizona State.

"If you can hold up and stay healthy, going down the stretch those games can help you," said Dennehy.

The Aggies got their first win last week, beating UL-Monroe 28-10.

Utah State uses a variety of formations on offense, at times having up to five wide receivers on the field.

"They are the most complicated, formation-changing, oriented football team I've ever tried to defense," Long said. "They shift in motion every single snap."

The Aggies had enormous success with the pass against the Lobos last year. Fuentes threw for 340 yards and wide receiver Kevin Curtis caught 6 passes for 180 yards. Both are gone, but Fuentes' replacement, junior Travis Cox, is throwing for an average of 222 yards a game.

Cox will be working against a New Mexico defense that is allowing 303 yards a game passing.

New Mexico's quarterback situation is more tenuous. Senior Casey Kelly is in a slump and last week -- after throwing two interceptions -- was replaced by redshirt freshman Kole McKamey in the second half. McKamey and the defense rallied the Lobos to a 24-17 win over New Mexico State.

Long said after the win that Kelly remains the starter, but it's obvious McKamey may see more playing time if Kelly's struggles continue.

"I don't think we'll hesitate to put him in there if we think Casey's having a bad night," Long said.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index

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