New Mexico Air Force Football

UNM tight end Marcus Williams, left, fumbles after being hit by Air Force players Friday at Air Force Academy, Colo.

Make it a baker’s dozen — and then some.

After three encouraging performances to start the rebuilding process that is the 2020 season under head coach Danny Gonzales, the University of New Mexico football team (0-4) took a noticeable step in the wrong direction Friday night with a 28-0 loss at Air Force.

It extends the nation’s second-longest active losing streak to 13 games and pushes the Lobos’ string of loses in the Mountain West Conference to 19.

Bottom line: The offense wasn’t good, the defense was improved but far from great and special teams was nothing short of a mess. Lobos kickers George Steinkamp and Andrew Shelley combined for four missed field goals while Nate Jones muffed the opening kickoff.

“We had some opportunities but we got out-physicaled as a football team,” Gonzales said. “We got our tails whooped, physically got beat.”

Down 21-0 at the half after Air Force’s offense had nearly a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession and produced three straight scoring drives to open the game, the Lobos’ defense did its part in the third quarter by forcing three turnovers — all of which produced failed field goals attempts and zero points.

Gonzales said the kicking job is now wide open, that missing two kicks under 50 yards means the job is there for the taking from anyone on the roster. After missing his first three tries, Steinkamp was replaced by Shelley who promptly pulled his lone attempt wide to the left from 40 yards late in the third quarter.

Gonzales said he apologized to the players after the game, then extended that apology to the fans and even the media in the postgame news conference. He heaped the responsibility of losing onto the coaching staff’s shoulders, saying the team wasn’t prepared enough to play Friday’s game.

“When they perform that bad, it’s my fault,” he said. “And it pisses me off that we did such a terrible job during the week getting them prepared. That shouldn’t happen.”

The defense gave up plenty of yards to the nation’s top rushing offense but sprinkled in a handful of solid plays, most of which came in the second half. The unit followed its three-turnover third quarter with a stop on fourth down inside its own 5-yard line in the fourth quarter.

The Falcons finished with 356 yards on the ground, 26 more than their average through their first three games. Their triple option attack, however, had a hard time doing anything outside the tackles. With UNM geared at stopping the option pitch, Air Force did most of their damage with the dive back up the middle.

Fullback Matthew Murla averaged more than nine yards a carry, opening plenty of running space up the middle for Falcons running back Brad Roberts and his 177 yards and three touchdowns.

“It feels like we got run over, that we got punched in the mouth,” Lobos linebacker Brandon Shook said after a career-high 19-tackle night that more than doubled his season total. “It’s not good feeling like that.”

With first-string quarterback Tevaka Tuioti missing his second straight game with a concussion, UNM’s offense was inconsistent with backup Trae Hall at the helm. Hall was sacked three times and was pounded by the Falcons’ defense by a number of hard hits in the backfield.

He completed 23 of 42 passes for 221 yards with a number of medium- to deep-route throws either dropped or well off the mark. He had three drives inside the Air Force red zone, each of which was derailed by penalties, negative plays, missed field goals and an interception at the goal line.

“We completely stopped ourselves again,” offensive lineman Kyle Stapley said. “And I’ll put that on the offensive line. My guys know it. We did not play to the standard that is set at UNM and has been set by [offensive line coach Jason] Lenzmeier. If we want to win, we have to play better.”

UNM’s ground game managed just 83 yards, giving the Falcons plenty of time to zero in on Hall and the passing attack. His final pass was intercepted, then he was taken into the locker room a few minutes before the final gun with an undisclosed injury.

The Lobos will have a short week before their next game, Thanksgiving night at Utah State (0-4).

(1) comment

Michael Welsh

How's that trip to Vegas affecting the team's performance?

Welcome to the discussion.

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