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Lobos' success may mean shift in WAC's balance of power

The dark days are behind Dennis Franchione and the New Mexico Lobos.

Prior to Franchione's arrival in Albuquerque five years ago, the Lobos were simply pitiful, compiling a 9-50 record under coach Mike Sheppard. New Mexico might win nine games this season, alone.After a 36-21 win over San Diego State on Saturday, the Lobos (6-0, 3-0 Western Athletic Conference) are off to their best start in school history. They also are guaranteed consecutive winning seasons for the first time in 26 years.

"It's unbelievable," New Mexico safety Scott McGarrahan said. "I can remember when we would win four games the whole year. We're not just looking to win six games or eight games. We want to win all our games."

If the Lobos can get past Rice (4-2, 2-1) next week, a perfect regular season is not out of the question. Two of their final four games are against Texas Christian and Tulsa, whose combined record is 0-10.

Regardless of the final outcome, New Mexico already has exorcised several demons, including a 13-game losing streak against San Diego State (1-5, 0-2).

"I'm real happy for the fans in Albuquerque," Franchione said. "This team is a part of history. I can't say how proud I am of them."

In other WAC games Saturday, Rice bumped Brigham Young from the top 25 with a 27-14 win in Houston; Hawaii upset Fresno State 28-16 in Honolulu; Colorado State beat San Jose State 55-20 in San Jose, Calif.; Texas-El Paso defeated struggling Tulsa 33-18 in Tulsa, Okla.; UNLV held off Texas Christian 21-19 in Las Vegas; and Southern Methodist edged Utah 20-19 in Salt Lake City.

Wyoming needed a long touchdown pass in the waning seconds to beat Nevada 34-30 in Reno, Nev., and Air Force held off rival Navy 10-7 in Annapolis, Md.

In Houston, Rice snapped BYU's 11-game conference winning streak and avenged last year's 49-0 loss in the process. Benji Wood ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns and Michael Perry added 132 yards and one TD.

"This puts us where we want to be," Wood said.

"But we've still got a lot of games ahead of us. We need to come back ready to work. We're on the right road, but we are not there yet."