“We had great momentum as I stood here a year ago — well, we lost that momentum — and we have to go get it back.”
Losing has a tendency to make fans and critics alike forget things, but University of New Mexico head football coach Bob Davie’s statement above is accurate — as good times weren’t all that long ago.
It was August 27, 2017 and Davie stood in front of the media talking about the upcoming season.The program wasn’t just riding high, it was an all-time high. New Mexico had just put together the best two-year stretch in program history.
The Lobos won seven games in 2015, followed by a nine win campaign that culminated in a bowl victory the following year. UNM also won a share of the Mountain Division crown and had the top rushing attack in the nation.
Then, it all went south. After bouncing back from losing a pair of close games — and starting quarterback Lamar Jordan to injury — to get back to 3-2, the Lobos lost seven consecutive contests to end 2017.
The good news — none of those losing will follow them into this season. And with three of the first four games of 2018 looking very winnable, Davie and company could be poised to regain what he called momentum for the team, the athletic department and the university.
The team has a revamped offense and weapons at receivers like Elijah Lilly, Jay Griffin IV and Delane Hart-Johnson — a big target with big play ability —that Davie said he’s excited to see.
"We've been waiting to get a scheme where maybe (Hart-Johnson) had a chance to get the ball more — well he's gonna have a chance to get it,” Davie said. “All those things add to the excitement of this.”
Despite perhaps feeling some internal pressure to bounce back from a 3-9 record last season, Davie dismissed the idea of additional stress being placed on the program to deliver now in the wake of a recent decision to cut several university sports.
"I'll be honest — we've done more with less in this program than anybody. What we've done here with the budget we've had is incredible,” Davie said. "If anybody at all thinks the narrative (is) that football does less with more, they're absolutely mistaken."
Davie said he understands that turning things around may not be easy, and the odds may be stacked against it, but he said part of what makes the job fun is the opportunity to do things many people think can’t happen.
"Whether you call it a 'chip on the shoulder' mentality, whether you call it 'tremendously motivated', whatever you call it, I've got it right now — and I think our team has it."
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The head coach said sports can really “move the needle” and have the potential to bring people together. He said UNM football had almost gotten over the hump and now the urgency is there to recapture the momentum from just two seasons ago and get a second chance at it.
Part of that urgency comes from knowing how dark things were when Davie took the job. Three total wins over three seasons from 2009-2011 seems like a distant memory and the rebuilding has been an ongoing project.
“All that work that we've put into this, I'm not going to let just go away,” Davie said. “I mean there has been too much investment by too many people to just let it go out the window.”
The Lobos first step toward regaining that momentum and getting over the hump can be taken tonight in the season opener, where they will host Incarnate Word at Dreamstyle Stadium Saturday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.