|New Mexico Bowl Champions!!!|
Albuquerque, N.M. - James Jones and Matt Castelo were named the game's offensive and defensive "Most Valuable Players" as San Jose State University claimed the inaugural New Mexico Bowl with a 20-12 victory over the University of New Mexico on Saturday, December 23.
Jones caught six passes for 106 yards and two touchdowns. He scored his first touchdown on a 36-yard pass from Adam Tafralis. Jones later scored on a 24-yard pass play.
Castelo led the Spartan defense that came up big in the game as the junior linebacker finished with 18 tackles and two forced fumbles. The unit forced four New Mexico turnovers, including a fumble on the one-yard line that was returned 57 yards by Damaja Jones. Castelo came up with a momentum-changing play when he forced a fumble by Lobo running back Rodney Ferguson with New Mexico driving.
"I saw the running back get the ball and it was like in slow motion," Castelo said. "I got down low and I think he tried jumping over me. He tried to put the ball out for a touchdown."
The ball was recovered by Damaja Jones and the momentum of the game turned for good.
"That was a 14-point play. It changed the game completely," said coach Dick Tomey, the 68-year-old veteran who turned around the downtrodden Spartan program in just two seasons.
"That was the biggest play of the game. If we get the score, we tie it 7-7," said New Mexico coach Rocky Long, 0-4 in bowl games since taking over the program in 1998.
Offensively, Tafralis completed the game 11-of-18 passing for 209 yards and three touchdowns. John Broussard scored the first touchdown of the game for San Jose State as he and Tafralis connected on a 76-yard strike. Broussard had four receptions for 106 yards and the touchdown for the game.
"Our kids and coaches worked incredibly hard for this win," said Tomey. "Nine wins is a big deal for us."
For the Spartans (9-4), the win provided a final highlight in a season in which they won more games than they had in the three previous seasons combined. One big pass play by Tafralis and one costly fumble by New Mexico - both in the first half - set the tone for the Spartans' first bowl win outside of California.
Associated Press contributed to this story.