Welcome to football weather.
Conditions for Friday night’s Mountain West Conference home opener for the University of New Mexico will see game time temperatures hovering in the high 50s at kickoff and dipping as low as the 40s by the time it ends.
In truth, if that were the only thing Lobos fans had to worry about, it wouldn’t be so bad. A few blankets and a hot chocolate or two cure the chills.
But it’s worse. Much worse. At 2-3 overall and losers of two straight, UNM is already staring a third straight miserable season in the face as Colorado State and a national television audience are up next.
The Lobos are hovering near rock bottom in a number of major statistical categories in the Football Bowl Subdivision, and at least one player, starting defensive back Patrick Peek, has already packed it in. The senior from Fort Worth, Texas, met with his father last week, and together they decided that he is going to sit out the rest of the season as a redshirt.
Peek appeared in four games, the maximum allowed by the NCAA for players not wanting to lose an entire year of eligibility and instead use a redshirt year to return the following season. He ranks eighth on the team in tackles.
“A lot of times, you worry about guys going belly up on ya,” said UNM head coach Bob Davie, referring to the play of his team in its loss last week at San Jose State. “That wasn’t the case at all. I didn’t worry about that at all.”
Mistakes have been rampant this season, and the ugly loss at SJSU merely amplified them. There were blocked kicks and fumbled snaps, turnovers and drops, missed tackles and absolutely demoralizing penalties with poor execution. Even Davie has to admit that it’s not easy to watch.
“The point is, there’s accountability and it starts with the head coach,” he said. “We didn’t play as good as we hoped to play.”
In CSU the Lobos are getting a rare opponent as hungry and desperate as them. The Rams (1-5, 0-2) own the MWC’s worst overall record, leaving their fan base moaning in the wake of the 2017 opening of a brand-new $220 million on-campus stadium that was supposed to slingshot the program into the league’s penthouse alongside Boise State and San Diego State (who, by the way, is building its own on-campus stadium).
In discussing the state of the Lobos in the aging and largely uninspiring Dreamstyle Stadium, Davie stuck to the basics of coach-speak. He talked about effort plays, heart and work ethic. He also talked about the fact that no one really likes excuses despite the fact that injuries are mounting and new challenges seem to pop up every day.
“But none of that matters, right?” he said. “The great thing about football, the great thing about sports, is there’s a scoreboard and that’s all that matters in the end. Nobody cares about anything else, and they shouldn’t. It’s a bottom-line deal and we’ve got to get better.”
It’s been a well-kept secret that most practices for the men’s basketball team are open to the public. That included this week’s workouts in The Pit and the Davalos Center. On Saturday, things get kicked up a notch with the annual Cherry and Silver Game in The Pit, a free two-hour event that is basically a glorified fan-friendly practice that features a 3-point shooting contest and dunk competition.
As it is, it seems all the little guys are entered in the dunk event while the bigs are headlining the shooting drill.
“Am I in the 3-ball thing?” said 6-foot-10 center Carlton Bragg before Thursday’s practice. “You know it. Course I am.”
“You know, I think he wants to be,” said head coach Paul Weir. “That’s something we don’t want him to be. He made his first 3 in practice yesterday, of the whole [preseason] practice session. Him and Corey [Manigault] both feel as though they’re the next Kevin Durant and I need them to be them to be the next Tree Rollins.”
Tree Rollins? That’s a seriously old school reference to the former NBA 7-footer who spent most of his jumperless 18-year career with the Atlanta Hawks.