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December 2, 2011
New Mexico-Boise St. Preview
(AP) -- Regardless of whether Boise State is selected to play in a BCS bowl, Chris Petersen certainly deserves plenty of credit for the program's success.
Petersen, who continues to be a hot commodity on the coaching market, will try to become the ninth-ranked Broncos' all-time leader in victories in Saturday night's regular season finale against a woeful New Mexico team that has lost 20 straight on the road.
Boise State (10-1, 5-1 Mountain West) will finish second in the conference to No. 18 TCU, which beat the Broncos 36-35 on Nov. 12.
Petersen's team, however, is seventh in the BCS rankings and could earn a berth with a victory Saturday depending on how other results unfold across the country.
The coach is 71-6 over five-plus seasons to match Tony Knapp's total from 1968-75 for the most victories in Boise State history. Peterson's 61 wins prior to this year are the third-most in NCAA history for a coach in his first five seasons.
"I think I've been lucky and blessed to be in the right situation at the right time," Petersen said. "We've had, obviously, tremendous players. I think one thing is the coaches we've had around here and been able to keep around here and the continuity. All those things add up."
With UCLA firing Rick Neuheisel on Monday, Petersen's name has come up as a possible successor. For now, Petersen is focused on senior day for the Broncos.
"Well I think that's going to be a positive in terms of the emotion and energy that that'll create, I think in the stands and certainly on the field," Petersen said. "We don't want them to leave, but I think it will have some good emotions."
The senior expected to receive the biggest cheers will be quarterback Kellen Moore, the nation's all-time leader with 48 victories. Moore is the sixth quarterback to throw for over 14,000 yards and has guided an offense that is producing 477.6 yards per game - the 11th-best average in the FBS.
The Broncos are hoping to get off to a better start than in last Saturday's 36-14 home win over Wyoming. They were kept off the board until the final 70 seconds of the half, when Doug Martin scored on a two-yard run and Moore threw a 46-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass to Matt Miller.
"Our offense is always going to click," Martin said. "Sometimes we start a little slow, but we know we just have to keep fighting, keep swinging. Eventually it will start clicking."
Another senior making an impact late in the year is safety George Iloka, who has been forced to move to cornerback due to a number of injuries for the Broncos at that position.
"George is playing a new position, and I hope no one gets electrocuted," Petersen said.
The Broncos own the Mountain West's top defense, allowing 326.4 total yards per game. The injury-plagued unit bounced back last weekend after allowing 71 total points over its previous two games.
"It's really hard to play great defense," Petersen said. "You have to be good against the run, you have to have a pass rush, you have to have corners, you have to have the whole package. If you don't, you see what happens and you get a little thin."
The future for New Mexico (1-10, 1-5) will begin next season when former Notre Dame coach Bob Davie takes over the program. Mike Locksley was fired after the team's 0-4 start, then the Lobos were outscored 195-14 in a four-game stretch under interim coach George Barlow before their lone victory, 21-14 over UNLV on Nov. 12.
New Mexico then lost 31-10 at Wyoming on Nov. 19. Another defeat would result in a third straight 1-11 season.
"It seems that change has been the only constant around here," senior defensive lineman Jaymar Latchison told the Lobos' official website. "A lot of players left since my first year, but the ones that stuck it out with me are like brothers to me."
The Lobos have the nation's fourth-worst defense, allowing 487.5 total yards per game, and the 10th-worst offense at 305.2. Senior linebacker Carmen Messina is a bright spot, needing one more tackle to become the Mountain West's all-time leader with 434.
"We've been through a lot of hard times, but all that has brought us together," Messina said. "You play for a lot of reasons, but your teammates might be the main reason. I know that many of the guys in the locker room will be my best friends the rest of my life."
Boise State won both previous meetings in 1999 and 2000.