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December 3, 2011
BOISE, Idaho (AP) The regular-season finale between New Mexico and Boise State is all about two teams heading in vastly different directions.
The No. 9 Broncos are poised for a second-place finish in the Mountain West Conference and another postseason trip. The Broncos (10-1, 5-1) also are setting their sights to the east in their quest to join a conference that promises more revenue, a higher profile and better bowl opportunities.
As for the Lobos (1-10, 1-5), their visit to Bronco Stadium on Saturday marks the end of another long, disappointing season, one marked by the midseason firing of the head coach and the likelihood of a third straight one-win season.
"The biggest challenge for me, for this particular year, has been finding ways to motivate the guys week after week after not having the success we've wanted to have," said interim coach George Barlow, who took over in September after Mike Locksley was fired. "But I've enjoyed this process even though we haven't won as many games."
As bad as things have been for the Lobos this season, there is at least a sense of hope heading into the offseason and next fall thanks to last month's hiring of Bob Davie, the former head coach at Notre Dame.
Barlow said he has no idea what the future holds for his coaching career, or that of the rest of the coaching staff, staff, when Davie officially takes over. For now, there are more pressing issues, like figuring out how to defend Kellen Moore and the rest of the high-scoring Boise State offense.
"I'm just focusing on this week," said Barlow, 1-6 in his first stint as a head coach. "I've got one more week to be the interim head coach here and take care of these kids. After Saturday, it will be a different story."
For Boise State, the game also marks the end of an era.
Moore, running back Doug Martin and more than a dozen other players signed as part of coach Chris Petersen's first recruiting class are getting ready to play their final game on the Boise State's iconic blue turf.
And in so many ways, it can be argued that the Class of 2006 has been the most successful in school history.
With a victory over the Lobos, Moore and his mates will have 49 wins, tying a school record for the most by a single recruiting class.
Since arriving on campus, they've been part of Bronco teams that won a second Fiesta Bowl, knocked off ranked foes such as Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia, won or shared three Western Athletic Conference titles and helped extend a 35-game home winning streak.
Members of that class have also left their mark on the record books kept by the school and the NCAA.
Moore's 48 career wins is the most ever by an FBS quarterback and he is second all-time with 137 career touchdown passes. He is also the first player in NCAA history to post four seasons with both 3,000 yards of total offense and 3,000 passing yards. He's thrown for more than 14,000 yards in his career, completed 69.3 percent of his throws and has just 26 interceptions.
"It's hard to put into words," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said about Moore's significance to the program the last four years. "Going into every game, you just knew he was going to play good.
Martin, who early in his career played cornerback before switching back to offense, is just the sixth running back in school history to have two seasons with more than 1,000 yards rushing. He also ranks fifth in school history with 3,170 career rushing yards.
"We've always just had that work ethic, the attitude of always trying to improve every day," said linebacker Aaron Tevis, one of the 19 members of that 2006 group. "We've tried to improve this program in everything that we've done here."
Having accomplished so much, players say it'd be hard to imagine a letdown against a New Mexico team that ranks near the bottom of the Mountain West in almost every statistical category. The offense is averaging just 13 points and 305 total yards on offense per game, while the defense ranks 119th nationally in scoring and rushing yards allowed per game.
The Lobos are coming off their second off-week of the season, and have used the extra time to heal and prepare. They got their first win of the season three weeks ago, beating UNLV 21-14 at home, but dropped the next game at Wyoming.
Barlow said it's no mystery what the Lobos need to do have any kind of chance of keeping up with a Boise State team that averages 43.6 points per game, sixth best nationally and allows fewer than 20 points per game.
"We've really just got to continue doing what we've been doing, and that's to go out and give maximum effort, cut down on mistakes. If we can do that we can give ourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter," Barlow said. "People on the team are excited to be back and the idea of going to Boise and doing what people don't think we can do."