Albuquerque, N.M. • With perennial college football power BYU, which usually travels well, and nearby UTEP meeting at University Stadium, New Mexico Bowl officials were hoping for a record crowd Saturday.
But they didn't quite get it.
Announced attendance was 32,424, with the Miners bringing maybe one-third more fans than the Cougars. The record was set in the inaugural game here, when 34,111 watched San Jose State beat homestanding New Mexico, 20-12.
BYU officials said they were given 5,000 tickets, and sold just over 2,500 through their website. UTEP reportedly sold around 4,000 tickets, according to the El Paso Times.
Actual attendance at the 39,000-seat stadium was estimated to be around 20,000, and many UTEP fans left early to catch their basketball team's night game against Texas Tech in El Paso.
In his postgame news conference, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall went out of his way to thank bowl officials "and the entire state of New Mexico" for the experience, and called the experience his "personal best" in any bowl game as a head coach.
In the fold
After Friday night's fireside at a nearby LDS Church stake center, Mendenhall received a commitment from one of the top receivers in Arizona, 6-foot-4, 200-pound Josh Weeks, a junior. Weeks attends Show Low High in Show Low, Ariz., and broke six Class 3A state records for receiving last season.
Different kind of trophy
For winning the New Mexico Bowl, BYU received a 20-inch piece of Zia Pueblo pottery, a rather unique championship trophy. It includes a Zia symbol, a depiction of the bowl's symbol, and football players. The Zia Pueblo Indians are indigenous to New Mexico. Most Valuable Player trophies were made of leather shields and went to BYU quarterback Jake Heaps (offense) and BYU safety Andrew Rich (defense).
A.J. Van Valkenburg, a backup linebacker, carried the team flag onto the field. The alumni flag was carried out by Stacy Corley, a former kick returner ... UTEP won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball to begin the game. ... Temperature at kickoff was 51 degrees. ... In the first half, the Cougars recorded seven tackles for loss for a total of 67 yards.