On Saturday, New Mexico head football coach Bob Davie announced that defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Jeff Mills will not be returning to the team next season.
Davie confirmed online reports that Mills had indeed been let go.
There was no word of when Mills was given his walking papers. Mills was fired after only two years as defensive coordinator.
“I appreciate the contribution Jeff made to Lobo Football as we continue to rebuild this program,” Davie said in a release. “Jeff is one of the smartest and hardest working coaches I have ever been around. I wish him well and know he will continue to have success in college football.”
UNM’s defense consistently ranked at the bottom of nearly every statistic during Mills’ tenure. The Lobos ranked 97th in total defense last year and 119th this season.
Davie has pointed out the fact that UNM lost upperclassmen due to numerous players leaving the program during former head coach Mike Locksley’s tenure. From 2009-2011, UNM was under academic probation resulting in five scholarships being lost each of those years.
The Lobos were forced to play with an abundance of sophomores and freshmen this season.
“That’s why all these guys are playing. Not because of choice, but because there is no other choice — we do have a foundation to build off of this,” Davie said during the final fall sports media luncheon on Nov. 26.
This past season, the Lobos allowed 516.6 yards per game and gave up 42.8 points per game (118th overall). UNM held only one opponent under 20 points this year, during a 66-17 victory over in-state rival New Mexico State on Oct. 6.
Defense had been a concern for Davie for a majority of the season, but the two weeks prior to the Lobos season finale at Boise State on Nov. 30 troubled Davie even more.
During that stretch, UNM gave up 135 points to Colorado State (66) and Fresno State (69). Against the Rams, the Lobos let running back Kapri Bibbs run for 291 rushing yards and score six rushing touchdowns, which tied the Mountain West Conference record for most rushing touchdowns scored in a game.
The following week at then-No.16 Fresno State, senior quarterback Derek Carr torched the Lobos’ secondary for 522 passing yards and seven scores. UNM also allowed a school record 822 total yards of offense to Fresno State.
UNM’s defense did have one of its better games during its season finale at Boise State two weeks ago. Despite the Lobos losing 45-17, the Broncos were only able to gain 432 total yards of offense — snapping a nine game streak of allowing at least 451 yards of total offense — and were forced to punt the ball six times. It was the first time UNM allowed less than 451 yards of offense since the aforementioned win over the Aggies.
“I understand why it is and I’m committed to get it fixed. I’m not panicking and I’m not losing confidence,” Davie said. “I’m also not losing enthusiasm about this place or what this place can be. There’s a reason and the reason is fixable and that’s what we’re doing.”
Colorado State to play New Mexico Bowl
The Colorado State Rams will represent the Mountain West Conference in the New Mexico Bowl, which will be played on Saturday, Dec. 21.
This will be the Rams’ (7-6) first bowl appearance since the 2008 New Mexico Bowl. CSU will play a Pac-12 representative.