The Associated Press
A seemingly sure TD pass is picked off by New Mexico’s doubly hurt Walter Bernard.
The Associated Press
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – With Northern Arizona driving for the go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter, New Mexico coach Rocky Long turned to hobbling hero Walter Bernard.
Bernard, the Lobos’ senior defensive back, came off the bench to intercept what appeared to be a sure touchdown pass from NAU quarterback Preston Parsons to 6-foot-5 freshman Clarence Moore.
Bernard, playing with a strained ligament in his right knee and a sore hip, outjumped Moore for the ball to preserve the Lobos’ 21-20 lead. New Mexico (2-3) went on to a 35-28 win Saturday night over the Lumberjacks (2-1).
The 17-year-old Moore had already burned New Mexico’s secondary for two touchdown catches as the Lumberjacks rallied from a 21-0 deficit. And with NAU at the Lobos’ 25 in the final seconds of the third quarter, Long sent in Bernard.
“We put him in because we were having trouble on that side of our defense,”Long said. “They were trying to outjump our smaller corners, and Walt is a little bigger. He made a real nice play, and that was as critical to the turnaround as anything else.”
Lobos quarterback Rudy Caamano passed for two touchdowns, and the defense set up two other scores as New Mexico extended NAU’s victory drought in Albuquerque. NAU has lost 22 of 24 games against New Mexico and hasn’t won on the Lobos’ home field since 1933.
Caamano threw TD passes of 14 yards to Dwight Counter and 27 yards to Larry Davis. Caamano was 7 for 7 passing in the first half, when the Lobos appeared headed for a runaway win. He finished 12 of 15 for 162 yards, the first time this season New Mexico has had more than 100 yards passing.
Northern Arizona’s comeback started with a 43-yard desperation pass into the end zone from Parsons to Moore as time ran out in the first half.
“It was a combination of luck and a heck of a play by Preston throwing and Clarence on the receiving end,” NAU coach Jerome Souers said. “No doubt it gave us a lift.”
The Lumberjacks then scored back-to-back touchdowns in the third quarter on a 1-yard run by Marcus King and a 20-yard pass from Parsons to Moore. But kicker Ty Dondelinger’s PAT was blocked by New Mexico’s Terrell Golden, leaving the Lobos in front 21-20.
Minutes later, NAU was driving again, and that’s when Bernard recaptured the momentum for New Mexico.
New Mexico then went 80 yards in nine plays, with Caamano finishing it off with the scoring toss to Davis.