Could this be the week?
Riding the second-longest losing streak in the country, the University of New Mexico football team is heading into a Thanksgiving Day game at Utah State looking for its first win in more than a full year. If the oddsmakers are right, this could be the time.
The Lobos (0-4) have been installed as early favorites against the Aggies (0-4) in a battle of winless teams that, as odd as it sounds, appear to be headed in opposite directions.
UNM has dropped 13 in a row dating to a 55-52 win at home against New Mexico State on Sept. 21, 2019. It’s the team’s longest skid since it lost 14 straight between former head coach Rocky Long’s final season in 2008 and the first 10 games of Mike Locksley’s tenure the following year.
Akron owns the country’s longest active losing streak at 20.
To say UNM is getting closer is an understatement. There have been a pair of one-score losses and a solid showing in another. Two of their opponents are still undefeated and, of course, there’s the whole new coach, new system, perpetual road team thing going on.
The fact that the Lobos have had zero positive COVID-19 test results since relocating to Las Vegas, Nev., one month ago is a remarkable testament to how tight of a ship coach Danny Gonzales and his staff have run in their first season at the helm.
Of course, none of that matters to Gonzales. If there’s anything he truly hates, it’s getting participation medals for trying hard. He has said repeatedly this season that losing by six is no different than getting hammered by 50.
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Speaking of COVID-19, it’s been a bad run for the Mountain West. Air Force had two straight games canceled after an outbreak, a frame that ended with last weekend’s 28-0 win over the Lobos.
The conference called off three games last weekend and got a jump on this week with Sunday’s announcement that the San Diego State-Fresno State game on Friday has been called off after contact tracing within the Fresno State made it impossible for the Bulldogs to take the field the day after Thanksgiving.
The Mountain West has now had seven games affected by the pandemic. All but one of those will not be made up, the lone exception being Air Force’s game against Army in the Commander in Chief’s competition between the service academies.
While COVID cases have ravaged some teams, UNM has avoided it. There was an outbreak in mid-October that saw nine players test positive and a total of about 20 people be required to go into isolation for two weeks.
Late last week UNM announced that the football program had conducted nearly 500 PCR tests over the previous week-and-a-half with no new cases. The men’s basketball team had conducted 53 tests and the women’s basketball team 41, none were positive.
Since late June UNM has run 5,590 PCR tests with 45 positives, which translates to a positivity rate of 0.81 percent.
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Mark your calendars for Dec. 2. That’s the day the New Mexico Activities Association will hold its next board of directors meeting, a meeting where we’ll probably going to get a lot of details about the potential return of high school sports in January.
The NMAA will announce the agenda later this week.
Nothing has officially changed with the NMAA’s expected return-to-play plan, which it published in mid-October. Basketball, swimming and cheerleading/dance are scheduled to begin preseason practice on Jan. 4 and competitions by Jan. 9. Practices for soccer, cross-country and football would begin in mid- to late-February.
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Let’s check on Twitter, shall we?
A couple of the interesting posts from the last few days:
“On this date: Riley Clavel of Roy High School set a state record with 14 steals in one game against Lake Arthur on November 18, 2017.”
— NMAA, making reference to a remarkable stat from a basketball game (not baseball) a few years back.
“Good luck to all the potential NBA draftees. Tonight will change someone’s life forever.”
— J.R. Giddens, former Lobo and first-round draft pick of the Boston Celtics (and current women’s basketball coach at Northern New Mexico College) in the hours leading into Wednesday’s launch of the twice-delayed draft.
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While Major League Baseball might go ahead and stick with the universal designated hitter in 2021, the Pecos League will not.
The independent league that includes the Santa Fe Fuego announced last week that it will continue to have pitchers hit next season. The league has spent most of existence without the DH, only using it for the second half of the 2012 season before ditching it for good the following year.
“Some people would rather have the DH,” said Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn. “Besides putting a better hitter into the lineup, it would limit a pitcher’s exposure to injury, either at the plate or on the bases. But we like the idea of going without it because it makes the managers use strategy more — makes them double-switch more. We had have it when we first started and the only other indy league that did it was the Golden League. The major negative is the scorekeeping is much more difficult.”
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UNM sports information director Frank Mercogliano showed great class by reserving a spot in the press box for the late Austin Denton for the Lobo football game against Nevada.
The 18-year-old Denton was an aspiring sports broadcaster when he died last December from complications from a spinal tumor. Although confined to a wheelchair after battling ailments his entire life, Denton was a well-known figure in the broadcasting business.
He called games for ESPN’s 101.7 FM affiliate in Rio Rancho and was a fixture with ProView Networks while calling a number of high school games.
Mercogliano paid tribute to Denton by issuing him the only credentialed media spot in the press box prior to the Nov. 14 game at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev.
He posted a photo of Denton’s media pass resting against the glass with Sam Boyd’s vacant field and grandstand in the background.