Held to an abysmal 11 percent efficiency in converting third-down situations, the New Mexico Highlands University football team racked up 430 largely fruitless yards Saturday in a 47-21 loss to Colorado State-Pueblo.
CSUP (10-0, 8-0) clinched at least a share of its third consecutive Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championship and can win the title outright next weekend against Western State.
The ThunderWolves have won 36 straight regular-season games and 31 in a row against league foes.
NMHU dropped to 2-8 and 1-7 in its third year under Eric Young; the Cowboys will wrap up the season Saturday at Western New Mexico. Saturday’s contest was the home finale at Perkins Stadium.
After spotting the ThunderWolves a 9-0 lead, the Cowboys rallied nicely, getting a 28-yard touchdown pass from Emmanuel Lewis to Demitrius Guice. Zach Tapia’s point-after made it 9-7 with 4:21 left in the first quarter.
But then CSUP scored 24 straight points to end the half and take a 33-7 cushion to the locker room.
When Seth Brown recovered a fumble in the Cowboy end zone on the opening series of the second half, the Wolves enjoyed their largest advantage of the day at 40-7.
Lewis engineered a scoring drive to answer, lobbing a 33-yard TD pass to Alex Gaines with 8:19 left in the third quarter.
But Chris Bonner — more effective in sustaining drives than his NMHU counterpart — retaliated with a 31-yard scoring strike to Stehly Reden. Highlands scored once more, on a 56-yard trick play pass from Darius Davis to Mike Harrison that made it 47-21 with 7:51 left in the fourth period.
The Cowboys converted just two of 18 third-down attempts. Although the Cowboys’ prolific aerial game generated 434 yards, Highlands was held to negative 4 yards rushing.
The Wolves’ pass rush proved menacing, and they got eight sacks for 73 yards. They also had 13 tackles for loss.
Ibe Nduka led NMHU in tackles with 12. Damion Whittington had nine, including 2.5 for loss, plus a forced fumble.