The reclamation of the Lobo football team has taken a troubling turn for the worse the last week or so.
In the span of eight days, the University of New Mexico went from a promising 2-1 start and visions of bowl eligibility dancing around to looking inward for answers that may not be there.
The Lobos (2-3 overall, 0-1 in the Mountain West) were shredded by Air Force’s triple-option offense Saturday night at University Stadium, losing 38-10 in a game that was never close.
The Falcons (4-1, 1-1) held UNM to a single first down in the first half, using their antiquated but artistic running game to eat up yardage and the game clock and send the Lobos to their second straight loss.
“We have enough talent to be competitive,” said New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales. “We don’t have enough talent to self-destruct and be competitive, as you saw out there tonight.”
Gonzales was referencing the types of things that don’t show up on stat sheets, like failing to cover a loose ball on an Air Force fumble, missing assignments in blocking schemes and not making adjustments to stop an opponent.
He’s also referencing things that are more apparent, like the defense doing a better job on third down (Air Force converted 9 of 15 tries and was 3 for 3 on fourth down) and getting more production out of an offensive line that has done little to protect quarterback Terry Wilson or make holes for the running backs.
Wilson finished with 179 yards passing, but much of that came in the second half after the Falcons opened a 24-point lead. At one point late in the first half, the Falcons had run 42 plays to UNM’s 13, dominating the game with an endless barrage of fullback dives and option plays to the outside.
It wasn’t until the Falcons’ 38th snap on offense that they attempted a pass. It was a 33-yard completion to Brandon Lewis, just one of two throws (with one completion) made all game by quarterback Haaziq Daniels. The team’s other 408 yards came on 73 rushing plays.
“It’s just smash football,” said UNM defensive lineman Joey Noble.
“That fullback dive that we were trying to stop; I’ll give it to Air Force’s offense, they’re good runners. They don’t ever stop,” he added.
Noble had 18 tackles and a sack as he and defensive back Jerrick Reed had 32 stops between them.
It wasn’t nearly enough.
The Falcons scored on their first four possessions, using 42 plays in drives that consumed 22 minutes, 40 seconds in the first half.
The Lobos responded with two turnovers and four punts in their first six drives. It wasn’t until Wilson tossed a 21-yard touchdown pass to Trae Hall in the third quarter that UNM finally erased the zero on the scoreboard.
“We’ve got to change the fine details of something that we’re doing in the football office because when you have a detail missing on the football field, you’re allowing it somewhere else,” Gonzales said.
Whether that means a change in personnel or altering the coaching style, Gonzales didn’t say. He did lament the offense’s performance, saying things had to be fixed before moving forward.
“That’s, you know, the coaches,” Wilson said. “I’d have to let them explain that for you. It’s not my position to really to talk about that, so whatever changes happens, I’m down with it.”
5-0-5 Por Vida: Air Force running back Brad Roberts had 142 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. It pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for his career, he pointed out afterwardt his two best games, career-wise, have come against the Lobos.
Last season, he ran for 177 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-0 win over UNM.
Not-so-friendly skies: The Lobos went six quarters without scoring against the Falcons, finally ending the drought with Wilson’s TD pass to Hall in the second half. Until that point, the Lobos had just one touchdown in their previous 36 possessions this season.
Hall’s touchdown was the Lobos’ ninth of the season.
All nine have been scored by different players.
The team’s leading scorer is kicker Andrew Shelley. His field goal and extra point in Saturday’s game give him 30 points. The other nine players have six points each.
Must be in the front row: Saturday’s announced attendance was 13,158 — or about 1,000 more than the New Mexico United averaged for their inaugural season at Isotopes Park.
Security breach: Two fans ran the length of the field in the fourth quarter, jumping onto the field in the north end zone area just as Roberts was diving across the goal line in the south end zone to open a 38-7 lead.
The pair ran the length of the field near the Air Force sideline just as the ball was snapped. They both eluded multiple uniformed police officers in the southeast corner, hopped a fence and ran untouched up the grassy hill before disappearing behind the giant tree that sits inside the stadium. Only one officer gave chase.
Up next: The Lobos head to SoCal next week to face San Diego State.
The Aztecs are in their second season of playing home games in Carson, Calif., just south of Los Angeles.
SDSU is building a brand new football stadium on the site of the old Jack Murphy Stadium that used to be home to the Aztecs, San Diego Chargers and San Diego Padres.