New Mexico 34 Utah 31

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By PETE HERRERA AP Sports Writer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- Freshman Donovan Porterie threw for three touchdowns and 350 yards and Martelius Epps scored on a 1-yard run with 2:09 left as New Mexico matched its biggest comeback ever with a 34-31 win over Utah on Thursday night.

Porterie, making his second start of the season, struggled through a miserable first half, then ignited New Mexico's offense with the help of wide receivers Travis Brown and Marcus Smith.

New Mexico (4-4, 2-2 MWC) trailed 24-3 late in the first half after Utah (4-4, 2-2 MWC) scored on four straight possessions.

With New Mexico's running game going nowhere and a nervous and unsure Porterie overthrowing receivers, the young quarterback suddenly found a groove.

Porterie led the Lobos on an 83-yard, five-play drive late in the first half that took just 1:09. He hit Brown with a 40-yard pass to the Utah 48, then two plays later found Smith open over the middle on a slant route. Smith took the 15-yard pass and outraced the Utes to the end zone. That was the start of 24 straight points by the Lobos.

Porterie hit Smith again with a 42-yard TD pass -- on another slant route -- less than a minute into the second half. That finished a drive that took just four plays and a minute and 42 seconds.

Lobo kicker Kenny Byrd cut the Utes' lead to 24-20 with a 21-yard field goal with 4:17 left in the third quarter and Porterie's 5-yard scoring pass to Brown with 10:20 left in the game gave the Lobos a 27-24 lead.

Utah regained the lead on a controversial 5-yard TD pass from Brett Ratliff to Brian Hernandez with 6:18 remaining. The officials initially signaled the catch good, then reversed it. After reviewing the play, they ruled Hernandez had possession when his feet touched down at the back of the end zone.

The score was set up by cornerback Eric Shyne's interception of a Porterie pass that bounced off Lobo receiver Thomas Wilson near the Utah 40. Shyne returned it to the New Mexico 23 and New Mexico was hit with a personal foul that moved it to the 8.

Porterie led the Lobos on the game-winning drive with several clutch completions. He hit Smith with an 18-yard pass, which Smith caught between a trio of Utah defenders. Porterie scrambled for 16 yards to the Utah 27 on a third-and-9 play and halfback Rodney Ferguson ran for 18 yards to the Utah 9. Porterie then hit Brown for a 9-yard pass to the 1.

Utah dominated the first half. Halfback Darryl Poston scored on runs of 7 and 8 yards, Ratliff tossed a 26-yard TD pass to Derrek Richards and Louie Sakoda kicked a 19-yard field goal.

Sakoda's first score was set up by a 32-yard Ratliff-to-Richards pass, Sakoda's field goal followed a 15-yard punt by Lobo kicker Jordan Scott that gave the Utes possession at the New Mexico 37 and Sakoda scored again five plays after Marquis Wilson returned to the New Mexico 41.

Porterie, who completed just 3 of his first 11 passes, was 19-for-33 and became the first Lobo quarterback in three years to throw for more than 300 yards. Brown had 9 catches for 154 yards and Smith had 136 yards on just 4 catches.

The comeback from 21 points down matched New Mexico's rally against UTEP on Nov. 23, 1974 in El Paso.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-10-19-06 2255MDT

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