It was a defensive performance worthy of a win.
It was an offensive performance deserving of a loss.
And that's exactly what happened as the University of New Mexico Lobos football team fell in its season opener 14-10 to Mountain West Conference rival Colorado State at University Stadium in Albuquerque on Saturday.
The Lobos hit the road for their second game, at 5 p.m., next Saturday at Arkansas.
The reasons for this loss were easy to see.
"Our defense played well enough for us to win this game," said UNM head coach Mike Locksley. "We tackled well and played great team defense. But we beat ourselves on offense. We had too many penalties and too many turnovers."
One of each that came in the final seconds of the game.
Following a great defensive stop by the Lobos on fourth down at the CSU 45-yard line with 1 minute, 57 seconds left in the contest, UNM quarterback Tarean Austin led the lobos to the CSU 5-yard line for the potential game winner.
But a holding penalty from wide receiver Deon Long pushed the Lobos to the 15-yard line, forcing a throwing situation. On the next play, Austin lost the ball as he was sacked by Rams defensive linesman Nordly Capi with 23 seconds left.
"I was trying to step up into the pocket to make a play," Austin said of the play. "I should have tucked the ball a little sooner, but things happen."
Despite scoring only 10 points, the Lobos led the Rams in many offensive statistics. UNM has more total offensive yards (329-270), held possession of the football longer (33:34-26:26) and had more first downs (22-12).
"Tarean managed the game well," Locksley said. "The disappointing thing is that we put the ball on the ground that was something that we stressed. Some of the shots he took were hits from the back side, things that were out of his control."
The Lobos committed just nine penalties for 65 yards and had three turnovers, all three of which were costly.
UNM's first turnover was by running back Crusoe Gongbay at the CSU 1-yard line at the end of the first quarter. The second UNM turnover was at the CSU 41-yard line when Austin lost the ball after being sacked, one of 10 the UNM quarterback would suffer during the game. The third ended UNM's rally.
Locksley said one of the reasons the target on Austin got bigger as the game continued was because of the youth and inexperience of UNM's offensive line and other mistakes.
"It's about technique when it comes to the offensive line," Locksley said. "We had Dillion (Farrell) playing his first game at tackle and (right tackle) Korian Chambers was playing his first game as a Lobo. We have to utilize the technique we were taught on the edge (of the offensive line).
"Sometimes we had receivers running the wrong routes, which caused our quarterback to hold onto the football longer than we wanted. Those are things that, from game one to game two, we need to get corrected."
After a scoreless first quarter that saw both teams each miss a field goal, the Lobos got on the scoreboard first with a 33-yard field goal from kicker James Aho with 4:16 left before halftime.
The Rams took their next possession 69 yards on eight plays and ended with a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Pete Thomas to Crockett Gillmore, who out-jumped UNM defensive back A.J. Butler for the score with 1:32 left.
But the Lobos responded with their lone touchdown, a 27-yard pass from Austin to Lamaar Thomas, to take a 10-7 lead with 12 seconds before halftime.
While neither team scored in the third quarter, the Rams got a much-needed 30-yard run from running back Raymond Carter, to help set up a 2-yard run by Chris Nwoke with 7:17 left, giving the Rams the lead for good at 14-10.
"We came into the game with a good game plan," said UNM linebacker Dallas Bollema, who led the defense with 13 tackles. "We just beat ourselves, but the mistakes we made we can begin fixing on Monday.
"It is a little bit of a shot to the heart to take a loss. But we have to keep our heads up and keep driving because we have a long season ahead of us."