Wake up, Lobos, the rest of the 2018 season is pounding on your door.
After a much-needed bye week to get healthy and figure some things out, the University of New Mexico football team returns to the task at hand with Saturday’s homecoming game against Liberty.
UNM (2-1) has nothing but conference games after this, but don’t try telling that to head coach Bob Davie. After studying Liberty game film for the last two weeks, he says the Flames are more than just an oddball nonconference opponent people should be taking lightly.
“This starts Mountain West Conference play to me,” Davie said. “This is absolutely a Mountain West team coming in here.”
The Lobos are moving forward, still licking the wounds from earlier this month. Lost for the season are the team’s top two defensive players in defensive lineman Trent Sellers and linebacker Alex Hart. Sellers has already undergone reconstructive knee surgery while Hart is tentatively scheduled to go under the knife next month.
It’s two huge losses for a unit Davie has said has been the backbone of the team’s play. Granted the Lobos have been pushed around by opposing offenses, but he said the defense is just now starting to hit its stride.
“I think the best is still ahead of us,” Davie said.
The goal this weekend is to find defensive leadership. Sellers was the team’s most physical defensive player while Hart was the leading tackler and vocal captain.
Then, of course, there’s the Lobo offense. What was a three-quarterback system was down to one for the win over New Mexico State two weeks ago. It’s back up to two now that projected starter Tevaka Tuioti is back from a concussion.
Davie said the offense will be largely unchanged no matter who is in at quarterback. Sheriron Jones started and got the win against the Aggies, but he’ll enter Saturday as Tuioti’s backup. Still out with a foot injury is Coltin Gerhart.
Davie’s confidence in the offense is a far cry from his stance two weeks ago when Jones ran a wildly conservative attack after throwing a pick-six on the game’s first play. Davie scrapped the triple option and dialed back the passing game in favor of straight handoffs to the running backs.
It worked, but if the last two weeks have shown anything, it’s that both Tuioti and Jones may actually be ready for the full array of UNM’s playbook.
“I think it’s probably even right now,” Davie said of the difference between his two QBs. “We haven’t backed off practice at all.”
Liberty comes in at 1-2, having crushed the same Old Dominion team that turned around and upset nationally ranked Virginia Tech. The Flames were then blown out by Army and North Texas, and begin what amounts to a Land of Enchantment road swing with games at UNM on Saturday and New Mexico State next weekend.
Liberty is coached by former Nebraska star Turner Gill and has eight straight winning seasons and a win over Baylor a year ago.
“You don’t win the kind of games they’ve won by upsetting people,” Davie said. “You win the kind of games they’ve won because of they way they’re coached and the way they’ve gone about building that program.”
The Lobos are one of only two teams in the country not to attempt a field goal this season. The other is Boston College. … UNM opens MWC play with two straight road game beginning next week at UNLV. Four of the final six games of the season are at home. … In Davie’s tenure, the Lobos are actually averaging more passing yards (207.3) than rushing yards (198.0) through the first three games. … New Mexico is off to its best start in 11 years. The 2007 team under Rocky Long began 3-1 and finished 9-4, winning the New Mexico Bowl. … UNM is seeking its third nonconference win of the season, something it hasn’t done since Davie’s first season with the program.