When your whole world is spinning and the familiar fails to make sense, it’s not the worst thing in the world to have your Monday feel like a Wednesday.
For The University of New Mexico football team, that’s exactly how this week feels as it has a Thursday date at Boise State on national television in the Mountain West Conference opener for the entire league.
The abbreviated time frame leaves little space for the reeling Lobos to reflect on last week’s deflating loss to downstate rival New Mexico State. Same goes for the team’s head-scratching inability to generate life in the option offense that led the country in rushing a year ago.
“It’s kind of a different week,” said UNM head coach Bob Davie. “It’s kinda hard to really think what day it is. You know, probably a good thing for us.”
The Lobos are coming off a 30-28 loss to NMSU. It was a game they trailed 30-5 in the fourth quarter while looking lethargic in nearly every aspect on both sides of the ball. A late spark nearly erased the entire deficit, but the Aggies turned away a 2-point conversion pass in the waning moments that could have potentially forced overtime.
It was the Lobos’ second straight loss to New Mexico State and, even worse, left them with more questions than answers heading to Idaho.
Davie said the entire coaching staff reported for duty at 7 a.m. Sunday and many remained in the office well past midnight. The fact that the Lobos drew the largest crowd for an Aggie game in eight years made things even tougher to swallow.
“The thing is, we realize we had created some momentum in this program,” he said. “It is a bit of a transition year as I said before we ever started, but you’d like to take advantage of the momentum that you’ve created.”
The case of the running game is truly confounding. The Lobos averaged 350 yards and only 13.7 pass attempts per game last season. Two weeks into 2017 they are averaging one fewer yard per carry, 232.5 fewer rushing yards and more than double the pass attempts.
The threw the ball 38 times against NMSU, the most of any game in the Davie era.
Davie replaced starting quarterback Lamar Jordan with freshman Tekava Tuioti against the Aggies and the newcomer tossed a pair of touchdowns in leading the comeback. Davie said after the game that Jordan was still his starter and confirmed it Monday afternoon.
“He obviously has a lot invested in this,” he said. “He’s worked hard. He’s had a very good spring and a very good training camp. He hasn’t played his best in these first two games.”
Daryl Chestnut is the team’s leading rusher with 108 yards. The team has now gone three straight games dating to last season without a 100-yard rusher. No one else on the team has more than 80, including preseason all-MWC pick Tyrone Owens.
Short-yardage specialist Richard McQuarley leads the team in carries but is averaging just 2.6 yards per carry.
“The running backs just haven’t played well,” Davie said after the NMSU game.
Getting Boise State on the blue turf before a national audience doesn’t seem like the ideal elixir for a restart, but the fact that the Lobos are even in a position to be on TV in the only game of the night has special meaning to the team.
“I can’t imagine a few years ago that ESPN would look at a New Mexico-Boise game and say, boy, there’s some intrigue in that,” Davie said. “You know, the only intrigue is how many points is Boise going to score a few years ago and maybe totally watching Boise. Maybe somebody out there kinda likes to watch us.”
Century mark: The Lobos have had a 100-yard rusher in 55 of the last 64 games. Without one in the last three, they can tie the mark for longest streak without a century back in the Davie era (2015; four straight).
New face: The Lobos aren’t the only team with a QB issue. Boise State starter Brett Rypien left the Broncos’ game last week at Washington State with an injury after getting sacked in the first quarter.
Head coach Bryan Harsin said Monday he expects backup Montell Cozart to get the start against UNM. He passed for 161 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 81 yards and another score.