ALBUQUERQUE — David Anaya is one of those home-state players that toils beyond the limelight for New Mexico.
But Saturday, he shone brightly in the Lobos' 14-13 victory over Utah State on Saturday.
Anaya, a senior from Roswell's Goddard High School, caused a fumble that led to one touchdown and recovered teammate Carlos Wiggins' fumble on a fourth-quarter kickoff return that kept the Aggies from getting the ball in good field position.
The forced fumble came after New Mexico (5-4, 3-2 Mountain West) had gone three-and-out to start the third quarter. Anaya hit Utah State returner Andrew Rodriguez at the 14.The ball bounced free and was recovered by Reece White at the 3, from where Richard McQuarley scored on the next play.
"Honestly, when I'm running down there, my first thought is to make the tackle but I really wanted the ball," Anaya said. "I really wanted to make a play for this team. I'm a senior. I first thought was we needed that kind of juice, that kind of intensity to get up. I thought I'd make a play, whether it was a tackle or getting the ball. I just wanted to make a play."
And a quarter later with the Lobos up 14-13, he made an equally big play when he recovered Wiggins' fumble at the New Mexico 25.
"I was all the way on the other side of the field and I saw Carlos making a move, trying to make a guy miss and sometimes when you make a move, you forget about the ball and I saw the ball squirt out," Anaya said. "I saw the pile of guys. I didn't really see the ball. But I thought I'd get my head in there, try to make a play, and try to come up with the ball."
And that's what happened.
"At the bottom of the pile, we were all kind of grabbing and it squirted into my stomach and I tried to hold on to it the best I could," he said.
Still, New Mexico needed a break to hold against the Aggies (5-4, 4-2).
And the Lobos got it with one minute remaining when Brock Warren's 41-yard field goal attempt with one minute remaining drifted wide right for his first miss of the season. He converted two other field goals earlier in the game.
"It was silent for us, "Anaya said of watching the final kick. "We didn't hear anything else except for the kick and then we saw the kick go wide and that's kind of when we went wild."
In the second quarter, New Mexico quarterback Lamar Jordan hit Delane Johnson for an 86-yard touchdown for the Lobos' other score.
The Aggies pulled with 14-10 on Kent Myers' 24-yard touchdown pass to Rodriguez in the third quarter then closed it to 14-13 on Warren's 41-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter.
New Mexico's Teriyon Gipson rushed for 86 yards on 18 carries and Jordan added 45 yards on 11 carries.
The Aggies' rushing game never got going, totaling 78 yards on 37 carries, with Devante Mays needing 17 carries to gain 29 yards.
Utah State had scored more than 50 points in three of its last four games.
Another than holding Mississippi Valley State scoreless in the season-opener, this was the Lobos' best defensive effort of the season.
"It adds confidence to our team," Anaya said. "The thought is that we can win, we can do it, we can pull off these close games because in the past, we've had a little bit of a problem pulling out these close games."