The University of New Mexico yesterday accepted an invitation to play Navy in the third annual Emerald Bowl in San Francisco on Dec. 30.
A runner-up to unbeaten Utah in the Mountain West Conference, New Mexico will carry a five-game winning streak into the postseason game after beating Wyoming, 16-9, in the finale.
The Lobos will be making their third straight bowl appearance for the first time in the school's 106-year football history.
The Las Vegas Bowl had the first choice of MWC teams after the Liberty Bowl opted to match high-powered Boise State against high-powered Louisville. The Mountain West champion is contracted to the Liberty Bowl, but Utah is headed to the Bowl Championship Series.
Las Vegas bypassed New Mexico, which has played in that bowl for two consecutive years, for Wyoming.
After losing four of their first six games, the last to Air Force, 28-23, the Lobos finished with a flourish, primarily on the strength of the running of tailback DonTrell Moore (1,083 yards) and a stout defense, which restricted Wyoming to three field goals.
New Mexico's biggest victory this season was a 27-24 verdict over a Texas Tech team that dominated Navy in the 2003 Houston Bowl.
"We feel very fortunate to get them," said Emerald Bowl executive director Gary Cavalli. "With a 7-4 New Mexico team meeting a 9-2 or 8-3 Navy team, we will have one of the more attractive matchups of the 2004 bowl season. Both teams travel very well, so we're expecting a record crowd this year at SBC Park."
The Lobos matched Utah with six players on the All-MWC first team, including Moore. Offensive tackle Claude Terrell was also a unanimous selection and center Ryan Cook, nose tackle Marcus Parker, linebacker Nick Speegle and cornerback Brandon Payne were also honored.
Speegle is the co-team leader with 84 tackles and Payne has six of the team's 13 interceptions. Overall, the defense has forced 28 turnovers while the offense averages 175.9 yards rushing and 111.1 passing.
New Mexico led the MWC in scoring defense, rushing defense, total defense, sacks and red zone defense.
Lobos coach Rocky Long expressed delight with the acceptance of San Francisco and forecast "a very entertaining football game. While I know Navy is not thinking about New Mexico this week, we certainly look forward to playing an opponent the caliber of the Midshipmen."
Navy is thinking Army, Army and more Army.
"What bowl game?" fullback Kyle Eckel responded. All coach Paul Johnson would say beforehand is that "whoever we play will be a good team."
The Midshipmen and Lobos have never met.
Matchup: Navy (8-2) vs. New Mexico (7-4)
When: Dec. 30, 4:30 p.m.
Where: SBC Park, San Francisco
TV/Radio: ESPN2/WJFK (1300 AM), WNAV (1430 AM)