Three Lobo football players used the words humble, blessed and exciting to describe the 2016 season—add perseverance to that list.
New Mexico (9-4) capped the football season with a ninth win in the 2016 Gildan New Mexico Bowl, narrowly defeating Texas-San Antonio (6-7), 23-20.
UTSA played a very disciplined game, filling the gaps on defense to force the run game outside and then showing good tackling ability.
It forced Lobo junior Quarterback Lamar Jordan to make difficult decisions for much of the game regarding whether or not to make the pitch in the triple option.
“It wasn’t our best offensive performance,” head coach Bob Davie said. “But I think UTSA obviously had a lot to do with that.”
The Lobos vaunted No. 1 rushing attack wasn’t just held in check; the Roadrunners actually outgained UNM on the ground and held New Mexico to a season-low 296 yards of total offense, a release said.
New Mexico lost Tyrone Owens in the second quarter after Davie said he re-injured his foot when the running back was stopped on a 4th & 1 play.
To make matters worse, senior safety Daniel Henry was flagged for targeting late in the first half. Although a review of the play overturned the call on the field, Henry was injured and his afternoon was done anyway.
The Lobos were already down a safety, as Ryan Santos was suspended by rule for the first half due to a targeting infraction during the season finale against Wyoming.
But despite all of the challenges—the Lobos persevered.
Both teams scored twice in the opening half of play, but Texas San-Antonio missed out on two big chances to come away with touchdowns, and was held to field goals instead.
Trailing 3-0, junior running back Richard McQuarley showed his persistence by running the ball four straight times—eventually it paid off.
On his third carry, he was stood up and planted into the turf by freshman linebacker Josiah Tauaefa on 2nd & goal from the 1-yd line. Timeout was called and McQuarley could be seen facing the sideline and putting his hands together, presumably pleading to get the ball one more time.
McQuarley, who used the word “humble” to describe the season, said he had to give credit to his opponent and it was a good hit. But he wanted a chance to get him back.
“The lower man is going to win,” McQuarely said. “I told coach, ‘Don’t try to change the play, just let me get the ball, get my chance back.’”
Davie did and the running back took another big hit at the goal line, but used his strength to break the plane of the end zone and put his team up 7-3.
Later in the game, with the Lobos up 16-13, McQuarley also notched arguably the biggest score of the game. He bulldozed his way through opponents to convert on fourth down before adding another touchdown run.
The score gave him 18 rushing touchdowns on the season, finishing just one shy of the school record held by DonTrell Moore.
More importantly, it gave the Lobos a two score lead at 23-13. It could have been devastating if they were held to a field goal in that situation, considering the Roadrunners drove down the field in the final two minutes for a touchdown.
“Blessed” is the word Jordan used to describe the 2016 campaign. He completed three of his four pass attempts for 77 yards on the day to compliment 81 hard-earned rushing yards.
Each of the completions led to a score—Anu Somoye attempted to high-point a well-placed throw into the end zone, but he couldn’t haul in the pass. The Lobos scored on the drive anyway.
Jordan’s performance garnered him the offensive player of the game award. He joined McQuarley and senior linebacker Dakota Cox on the podium in the post-game conference and thanked God for bringing them all together and for making that day happen.
Cox ended his collegiate career accomplishing something that had never been done in program history. He led the team in tackles for four straight years, compiling a career total of 403 tackles.
He earned defensive player of the game honors with 10 tackles, but credited the entire defense for playing a solid game.
“It was a great opportunity to go out there for the last home game her in the Lobo uniform for me,” Cox said. “It meant a lot for me to go out with that award.”
The linebacker said the season was “exciting”. He said it was special for the team to get its ninth win of the season, and was something he believed it can build on next season.
Davie was caught in the middle of some excitement as the game drew to an end, taking a Gatorade bath on a cold, blustery day. The team put the coach on their shoulders as it marched toward the 50-yd line to receive the Gildan New Mexico Bowl trophy.
The head coach said he appreciated the fans that were in attendance. He said many fans expressed their thanks and there were even some tears.
“It’s what they said to me after the game and to these players, the sincerity,” he said. “It meant a lot to me, it really did.”
Davie will now have to say goodbye to Cox and many other fifth-year seniors that showed the perseverance necessary to turn New Mexico football around.
It will be interesting to see what is next for the team if Davie is able to sustain the success he has brought to the program, especially over the past two seasons.