Full disclosure: We were warned about this.
Nothing about the watching-grass-grow offense fielded by the University of New Mexico football team should come as a surprise. Not a single element of the unit’s tortured late-night infomercial feel should cause you to sprout gray hair or develop a desire to kick your dog.
Long before his team took its first snap under his control, long before a single player pulled on a jersey and ran onto the field, head coach Danny Gonzales said Year Two of the Lobo Reclamation Project (my title, not his) was going to be the roughest one of the bunch.
This was the year when all the seniors from his first season were gone, when all those incoming recruits would percolate to the top of the depth chart and flush out former coach Bob Davie’s elder statesmen. The core of what Gonzales promised to be a bright future would dominate a youthful and inexperienced roster that would, predictably, struggle against more seasoned clubs.
He wasn’t wrong.
In fact, he told us to expect growing pains and foretold of a road filled with potholes; obstacles that would likely spill over into a Year 3 filled with measured steps in the right direction.
It wouldn’t be until Year 4 that the true nature of what he was building would turn the doormat of the Mountain West Conference and one of the most overlooked programs the Football Championship Subdivision into a contender the likes of, gulp, league rivals San Diego State, Air Force and Boise State.
But let’s be honest — it’s hard to digest what we’ve been fed to this point. That fact is playing itself out at the turnstiles as four of the five home games (New Mexico State excluded) have been under 16,000.
The offense is, statistically speaking, a nightmare. Let us take a deep dive into the numbers:
There are 130 teams in FBS. The Lobos rank dead last in three major offensive categories, in the bottom 10 in five others and crack the top-100 in just four of the 17 metrics tracked by the NCAA.
Among the lowlights? At the very bottom in scoring (13.6 points per game), first downs (14 per game) and red zone scoring (24 trips inside the opponents’ 20, nine touchdowns). They’re 129th in total offense at 253.1 yards a game and 129th in third-down conversions (35 of 140).
They’re 127th in passing, leading only the traditional triple-option service academies who, by all accounts, only throw it when they get bored running it down your throat. UNM doesn’t have that excuse; the passing is just horrible, as evidenced by their 121st ranking in efficiency and No. 127 in yards per completion.
In one of the most time-honored traditions UNM football owns, injuries have turned the quarterback situation into a mess. Terry Wilson came and went with a dislocated elbow. Freshman C.J. Montes was overwhelmed in his brief three-game stint before getting hurt. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Chavez has taken on a magical Tim Tebow-esque feel (think Broncos, circa 2011) but has been hobbled by a pair of injuries that limit his effectiveness.
It’s gotten so bad that one of the most prized recruits Gonzales has had, Arizona prep star Brayten Silbor, de-committed from UNM after offensive coordinator Derek Warehime implemented the option in what has been a futile attempt to get some production out of his guys.
The hard truth is this: It won’t get better until we reconvene for preseason camp in 2022 and it won’t be time to puff out your chest for another couple of years.
Until then, enjoy watching the paint dry — and wondering how long we’ll have to watch the Lobos challenge for No. 130 in the only things that matter.