Despite leading at halftime, the Lobos (1-3) couldn’t overcome a second-half meltdown that led to a 35-24 loss against Fresno State. Head coach Bob Davie said the game reminded him of the 58-23 loss to Arizona State in which UNM kept the game close until falling apart in the second half.
“The stage was set,” Davie said. “We’re not good enough yet to go perform against a team like that for the entire game, and then go win the game.”
Heading into the locker room at halftime, UNM led 17-14 with help of a robust ground game that more than doubled Fresno State’s rushing attack. New Mexico’s defense allowed only one score on three separate red-zone drives.
“We were certainly in a position to win the game,” Davie said. “There were certainly some bright spots.”
In the second half, the Lobos couldn’t move the ball on the ground and the big defensive plays inside the 20-yard line were nowhere to be found.
Sophomore linebacker Dakota Cox, who led the game with 19 tackles, said effort is not what plagued the Lobos; inconsistency on both sides of the ball propelled the loss.
“We were playing great in the first half, making stops and doing our jobs,” Cox said. “We just need to play consistent the whole game.”
Following 233 yards rushing the first half, the Lobos’ smash-mouth playing style disappeared. The offense only gained 52 yards on the ground in final 30 minutes of the game, and the red-zone defense managed just one stop and allowed three touchdowns.
In big-time situations, UNM simply couldn’t convert. On a key fourth-and-1 play late in the third quarter, freshman quarterback Lamar Jordan kept the ball and ran outside on an option play. The young quarterback rolled outside looking for a hole to split, but Fresno State stuffed Jordan for a loss of one, forcing a turnover on downs.
“We just had some missed opportunities in the second half,” offensive lineman LaMar Bratton said. “There are going to be bad things that happen in the game, but you can’t let it bring you down to where you can’t execute anymore.”
If UNM had converted that fourth-and-1 play, the Lobos might have been able to burn more of the clock with a chance to go up by 10 points. Davie said Jordan‘s mistake was in keeping the football on the option run.
“A big play in the game was a fourth-and-1 where we didn’t convert,” Davie said. “That ball should have been handed off.”
Davie said he didn’t go for the field goal because the team needed to be up by more than one score against Fresno State.
The following drive, the Bulldogs marched down the field for 81 yards, taking a 28-24 lead. It was the first lead of the night for Fresno State, and would prove to be the last lead change of the game.
Liam Cary-Eaves is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Liam_CE.