For Lobos fans not willing to keep the coffee brewing into the wee hours of Friday night, they didn’t miss much.
The University of New Mexico football team started slow, bounced back just enough to make things interesting and then ran out of gas in the end thanks to an abyss of turnovers and penalties in a 32-21 loss at San Jose State.
The loss was the second straight and dropped UNM to 2-3 overall, 0-1 in the Mountain West.
“It was a frustrating night across the board,” head coach Bob Davie said. “I expected [a] better performance. It has nothing to do with playing on a short week. It has nothing to do with playing on the road. It’s just we’ve got to grow up.”
The Lobos return home next week to face Colorado State at Dreamstyle Stadium, but they’re doing so after a number of questions and concerns rose from their six turnovers, nine penalties, porous defense and complete inability to protect the ball (five fumbles, two lost with four interceptions).
Some observations from Friday’s game:
Easy on the QB controversy talk
The play of backup Sheriron Jones appeared to have sparked debate over who should start at quarterback, but take a closer look at his production. In some ways, it’s smoke and mirrors.
A number of his biggest plays were improvised when things broke down and he was forced to create on his own. A more talented runner than Tevaka Tuioti, he showed his skills (and wheels) in the open field a number of times with runs of 10, 21, 29 and 35 yards after relieving Tuioti in the second quarter.
In the old days of the triple option, that kind of yardage is music to the Lobos’ ears. A running quarterback was usually a winning quarterback in Davie’s old offense. Thing is, this isn’t the option. It’s a system supposedly designed to give Tuioti a greater advantage to do the things he’s supposed to do well.
Bottom line, Tuioti deserved to be replaced. He missed several open throws and got the Lobos into a deep hole out the gate.
But does that mean he should get the demotion? If Davie is truly desperate to shake things up and revamp the offense mid-stream, yes. If he’s willing to stick to his game plan (and he usually does), Tuioti will get at least one more shot to prove himself.
Adios, bowl game
Look, it was a long shot that his team was going to make it to a bowl game. Even in the most ideal of situations they were hoping for, at best, a 6-6 record and the rubber-stamp bid to the New Mexico Bowl.
That’s gone now. At 2-3 overall and games against a series of the Mountain West’s premier teams lying in wait, the rest of the 2019 season is basically a play-out-the-string kind of deal. The Lobos will be considerable underdogs in each of their final six games and their only real chance (on paper) for a win is this Friday at home against Colorado State, the only other team in the MWC Mountain Division without a conference win.
After that, it’s dates with Wyoming (4-1), Hawaii (4-1), Nevada (3-2), Air Force (3-2), Boise State (4-0) and Utah State (3-2).
Any chance of a postseason appearance rested on wins over Liberty and San Jose State. Neither happened. Barring a remarkable (and frankly, entirely unexpected) run through the MWC’s best, it’s time to start turning out the lights on 2019.
The leak is coming from over there
The defense has been a mess. That’s a horrible understatement given its rank at 129 out of 130 teams in the FBS coming into the weekend.
Statistically, the team did improve slightly in the loss to San Jose State, but only marginally. The Lobos were giving up an average of 526 yards through their first four games; the Spartans were “held” to 464. UMass, UCLA and New Mexico State, three teams in the Lobos’ neighborhood at the bottom of the total defense category, were struggling worse than they were Saturday night.
Bottom line, it doesn’t really matter who’s at quarterback or what plays Davie calls as long as the UNM defense continues to play like it has. Davie pointed to the small victory of holding San Jose State to four field goals over the final two-plus quarters.
That’s fine, but there’s still the matter of a defensive secondary that has not lived up to the promise and a unit that continues to give up huge yards and explosive scoring plays.