Defense rests case following loss No. 4
They are who we thought they were.
Presented with mounting,
incriminating evidence that the UNM football team is unspeakably bad, most level-headed fans held out judgment on the Lobos.
That was the kind, gentle thing to do, considering they played nationally ranked teams Oregon and Utah and a formidable Texas Tech squad.
Those same fans didn’t take kindly to the Lobos’ 45-10 mind-melting loss to UNLV, and callers flooded 770 KKOB’s “Extra Point” show to voice their protestations about the direction the program is headed.
Most were unified in theme and thought: Head football coach Mike Locksley can’t lead this program.
But, in truth, not much can be done at this point, save for, well, nothing.
Once you’re strapped into a rollercoaster, you can’t jump out of the ride upon deciding it’s not to your liking. Much of the same,
after moviegoers purchased a ticket and viewed the first few minutes “Gigli,” their only alternative was to buy popcorn and some Coke — or choke on a corn kernel.
Yet it seems safe to say that Ebert and Roeper would give “Gigli” two-thumbs up after viewing this latest installment of Lobo football.
What’s most disconcerting — aside from not being remotely competitive — is that the Lobos have entered the softer portion of their schedule. And if any positive could be taken from losing to the Ducks, Red Raiders and Utes, Locksley said, it was the fact that UNM could lean on its experiences in those games against inferior competition.
Much like the Lobos, UNLV faced a demanding schedule in Wisconsin, Utah and Idaho. Different than the Lobos, the Rebels’ program — it should be pointed out, guided by first-year head coach Bobby Hauck — appeared to be leaps and bounds ahead of UNM, despite its previous 0-3 record suggesting otherwise.
Locksley was given the opportunity to blame Saturday’s loss on off-the-field diversions, but he resolutely discounted that the swirling Mike Leach-to-New Mexico rumors and innuendo has proved to be a distraction. That’s makes two of us — if anything, it’s been a welcome distraction from the play between the hash marks.
“The difference between UNLV and the Lobos right now is they’ve got a veteran signal caller that’s been behind center for four years,” Locksley said, referring to Omar Clayton. “They didn’t make any mistakes. Our freshman quarterback had two interceptions and had a fumble, and they had a veteran quarterback that played a good game.”
Yet calling it a quarterback quandary falls short of the cumulative problem. When not faulty and sprung full of leaks, the Lobos’ offensive line enabled freshman Tarean Austin to stand in the pocket and deliver, evidenced by the 48-yard yard pass he dropped perfectly into Bryant Williams’ hands.
No doubt about it — the Lobos have been decimated by injuries, especially at quarterback with B.R. Holbrook saddled by exploratory knee surgery and Brad Gruner unavailable Saturday because of a bad back. All that has paved the way for the inexperienced, yet awe-inspiring Austin. All things considered, Locksley has been hesitant to start the freshman, instead opting to steadily work him into the system.
“With each game, I think you’ll see him improve, but he’s still a long ways away from being able to run our full offense,” Locksley said.
What Locksley should be most concerned about, though, is the Lobos’ ghastly defensive play. Heading into Saturday’s contest, UNM was giving up an average of 60 point per game. Case and point: By allowing only 45 points, the Lobos actually trimmed their opponents’ average to 56.3 points per game. UNLV’s Michael Johnson darted across the field unblanketed, scoring three touchdowns. The Rebels racked up 415 offensive yards. The transition from Rocky Long’s 3-3-5 defensive scheme to Doug Mallory’s 4-3 has been less than succinct.
Locksley said, “We can help our defense on the offensive end.” In other words, if the offense stays on the field, the defense never has to take it.
Much like his defense, Locksley has been punched full of holes, but he said the criticism has been fair.
“This is still entertainment. Fans pay money and boosters give money, and they deserve to voice their opinion,” he said. “We are where we stand.”
Which is to say, winless and not amusing.