In light of the recent news swirling around Lobo football, many might wonder if it can get any worse for head coach Mike Locksley and the UNM football team.
Well, Las Vegas odds makers think so.
The Lobos, 35.5-point underdogs, are off to Lubbock, Texas, to face pass-happy Texas Tech.
Even in the direst of circumstances, Locksley remains focused on preparing his team for combat.
“We’re hoping this week to build off of the positives of last week’s game,” Locksley said. “We will try to get rid of the unforced errors that have plagued us all year long. I thought our guys responded and played well, giving us a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter, and we didn’t do that.”
Linebacker Carmen Messina said he knows the defense will have to work to stack up against the finesse of the Red Raiders’ offense.
“They’re a very talented team,” Messina said. “We have to be assignment-sound and don’t create any mistakes on our side.”
Mistakes can’t be a part of the equation if the Lobos want to have any chance of pulling the upset at Jones AT&T Stadium.
The Red Raiders are second in the nation in passing yards with 413.5 per game. Quarterback Taylor Potts has already thrown for more than 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns this season.
“They put up chunks of yardage,” Locksley said. “The good thing is they aren’t a team that beats you up physically. Most of the time they are going to horizontally spread you out and try to create mismatches with linebackers on receivers.”
In the absence of Michael Crabtree, former receiver who led the team in receptions in 2007 and 2008, head coach Mike Leach’s offense has spread the wealth in the passing game more this season. Three wide receivers have 20 or more receptions, most notably Lyle Leong. Leong is second on the team with 21 receptions and leads the team in total touchdowns with five.
But Locksley said he’s most impressed with Tech’s defensive development.
“The biggest growth I have seen in Texas Tech over the last couple of years is how they have played defense,” Locksley said. “They have really become better on defense under (defensive coordinator) Ruffin McNeill. Ruffin has done a great job on defense to get them in great positions (to make plays).”
The Lobos have also had great defense play this season from Messina.
Messina leads the nation in tackles per game and has racked up 57 total tackles so far this season.
“Carmen Messina is going to be a great player for us,” Locksley said. “The best part is that we still have him for a couple more years.”
Best of all, Messina’s confidence hasn’t been shaken by the Lobos’ sluggish start or off-the-field commotion.
“I have just been put in a great position to makes plays with this new defense,” Messina said. “I have great teammates all around me. I have a great defensive linemen taking up blocks and filling up those blocks. I got the cornerbacks who have been closing the edge, so I am able to run to the ball carrier. Really, I am just surrounded by talent and it’s allowing me to make plays.”
*Football vs. Texas Tech