For the second straight year, the New Mexico Highlands University Cowboys spoiled No. 18 Mines’ undefeated record as NMHU outlasted the Orediggers 42-37 in an offensive shootout Saturday in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
In a bit of foreshadowing, the game began with a bang, as less than two minutes into the contest, NMHU running back Vincent Venegas broke free for a 76-yard touchdown run.
Mines would respond with an 11-play, 80-yard drive on the next possession to tie the game with a Matt Brown quarterback sneak. The two teams would trade punches for the rest of the first quarter to push the score to 14-14.
Turnovers plagued the Orediggers throughout the game. The Cowboys forced four Mines turnovers and outscored the Orediggers 21-3 in points-off-turnovers, all of which occurred in a critical stretch at the end of the first quarter and beginning of the second.
Tied at 14 apiece with 1:44 left in the first quarter, The Orediggers received the ball and looked primed to take their first lead of the game. But in a crippling series of events, Mines would turn the ball over on three of their next four drives, each one resulting in a Cowboy touchdown. The Orediggers did score a touchdown on their other drive, but the damage had been done, and a furious comeback was needed to salvage the perfect season.
With the high-powered Oredigger offense, it nearly looked as if Mines was going to erase their four turnover blemish. Trailing 42-24 partway into the fourth quarter, Brown began slinging the ball, finding senior receiver Jerrod Doucet for a 7-yard touchdown to cut the lead to 42-31.
After the defense forced a Cowboy punt, Brown and the offense found themselves down 11 with 4:14 left to play. Brown quickly moved the Orediggers down the field in six plays, culminating in a Cody Renken 13-yard touchdown reception. A failed two-point conversion left the score at 42-37 with 3:06 remaining. The defense once again forced a punt, and what looked like a sure defeat was beginning to show glimpses of “Tebow-Time.” Mines was pinned down at their own 7-yard line with just over a minute to play when Brown found Renken for 41 yards to put the Orediggers at near midfield. Unfortunately for the Orediggers, that was as close as they would get. Mines would reach as far as the NMHU 43 before turning the ball over on downs and sealing the 42-37 win for the Cowboys.
For Mines, the loss marked the second straight season that NMHU has put a blemish in their undefeated record. In 2011, the Cowboys outlasted the Orediggers in similar fashion, holding on for a 40-34 win. It would prove to be one of only three losses the Orediggers would suffer on the year.
What may be easily lost in Mines’ first defeat of the season would be the sheer magnitude of the offense displayed. Both teams combined for a total of 1202 offensive yards. In comparison, in LSU’s defensive 12-10 win over Auburn, the two teams combined for only 534 yards of total offense and Boise State and BYU combined for only 441 in an ugly 7-6 Broncos win.
Between Mines and NMHU, 11 offensive touchdowns were scored (Boise and BYU had one) with eight passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns. For the Orediggers, Brown attempted an unheard-of 80 passes (Boise and BYU combined for only 45). He completed 52 of those passes for 601 yards, breaking David Pesek’s previous school record (509) by nearly 100 yards.
With that incredible number of passes, Mines had three receivers with at least 12 catches and 120 yards as Doucet finished with 15 receptions for 172 yards, Renken had 12 for 145 and David Pawelek had 12 for 120.
Mines (3-1 overall, 1-1 RMAC) continues their season with a Homecoming game Saturday against Western New Mexico at 12 pm.