The New Mexico Bowl features one of the most unique trophies in all of college football. A hand painted clay pot made from scratch by Marcellus and Elizabeth Media, the trophy is a 20-inch bowl that features native-inspired artwork infused with the college football taking place in this game. This year, the Mountain West’s Fresno State Bulldogs will battle the Conference-USA’s UTEP Miners for the sole possession of this trophy.

Some of the great players who have played in this game, played annually since 2006, have gone on to NFL career. Wide Receiver James Jones, the games first Outstanding Offensive Player Honoree in 2006, went on to play in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers. Jordan Love, Marquis Flowers, Shaquil Barrett, and Zach Vigil are just among the names of players who have been honored in this game.

Fresno State (9-3, 6-2 vs Mountain West) has been one of the most prolific offenses in college football this season. Consistency has been their biggest enemy. Behind the arm of Jake Haener and the legs of Ronnie Rivers, the Bulldogs took down major opponents like UCLA (40-37) and San Diego State (30-20). They went toe-to-toe with Oregon (31-24). However, Haener and his star receiver, Jalen Cropper, has entered the transfer portal and won’t be playing in this game.

UTEP (7-5, 4-4 vs C-USA) surprised everyone in 2021 coming out strong with a 6-1 start to the season. Despite the strong start, UTEP finished 1-4 with losses to Florida Atlantic, UAB, UTSA, and North Texas. This game will be their opportunity to take advantage of the Bulldogs loss of Jake Haener and finish out their season strong.

New Mexico Bowl – The Marquee matchup: Fresno State ROVER Elijah Gates vs UTEP WR Jacob Cowing

Jacob Cowing (5’10” 170 lbs) is a two-time All-Conference receiver who has been extremely productive throughout his UTEP career. There is no guarantee that he will declare this year, as he has two more years of eligibility remaining, but Cowing has already produced 139 career catches for 2571 yards and 14 touchdowns. Cowing is extremely fast, shifty, and surprisingly agile in the open field.

Elijah Gates (5’9″ 190) is a transfer in from UCLA who has stepped up as one of the key defenders on the Fresno State team this season. Despite surrendering some frame and size, Gates has played very well and matches up against larger receivers with strength. He moved from cornerback at UCLA to more of a STAR/ROVER this season with the Bulldogs, and so far it’s been a very solid move.

Cowing lacks the size that some of these players do that Fresno State has faced this season, and it should be a fascinating chess match between Gates and Cowing to see who prevails. With the amount of time that Cowing spends working out of the slot, these two should be matched up early and often.

Fresno State players to watch

  • RB Ronnie Rivers
  • Off Ball LB Arron Mosby (NFLPA Bowl)
  • ZWR Ty Jones

Ronnie Rivers (5’8″ 195 lbs) is an electric “scat back” with receiving upside to his game. He’s tremendously fun to watch and despite his lack of size shows some real upside as a third down back in the NFL. Rivers is also the all-time Fresno State touchdown leader.

Arron Mosby (6’2″ 246 lbs) burst on the scene this season with an electric opening week performance against UConn, and backed it up the rest of the season with his versatility as a rush edge defender Mosby lacks some athleticism which limits his real impact at the next level, but still offers valuable depth at that position.

Ty Jones (6’3″ 204 lbs) is one of the big play receivers in the Bulldogs offense. He has a strong catch radius and flashes good footwork at the top of his breaks that creates separation. He will have to step up in this game and become the main receiver with Jalen Cropper not playing, and so this will be a big opportunity for him to make a final impression.

UTEP players to watch

  • G Bobby DeHara
  • RUSH EDGE Praise Amaewhule

Bobby DeHara (6’3″ 300 lbs) is a nasty, intimidating force on the interior. Personally, I believe DeHara has been under looked most of this entire draft cycle. He’s a solid run defender and has a very stout body built to handle strength. He works very well into the second level and is intimidating. Looking at his frame, DeHara looks like he can put on more weight. If he does, it should only increase his power ability.

Don’t forget the explosive pass rusher Praise Amaewhule (6’2″ 245 lbs) who brings strong upside to the NFL level. Amaewhule isn’t the most consistent player on a snap-to-snap basis, but he flashes a great first step, solid explosiveness, and good intensity to collect hustle plays. Despite these tools that he flashes, Amaewhule has room to grow, especially in developing his pass rushing plan.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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