The University of New Mexico football team, with its newly revamped offense, proved to be too much for University of the Incarnate Word on Saturday evening, defeating the Cardinals 62-30 at Dreamstyle Stadium in its season opener.
Despite the score, though, the Lobos gave up 566 yards in total offense to UIW — something head coach Bob Davie said his team has to fix soon. “We can’t win with the kind of performance we had on defense,” he said.
“We got to take this personal, we got to bounce back, we got to watch the tape. And we need to clean all this out and move forward because I know we can play better (defensively). … We’re not gonna be able to do this offensively to other people like we did tonight, let’s be honest.”
Under first year offensive coordinator Calvin Magee, the Lobos’ offense looked much different than a season ago, as they passed the ball more frequently than in past seasons. It took the Lobos just two plays to get the ball in the air.
A season ago, UNM had just 10 plays of 30 yards or more passing. Against the Cardinals, they had seven passing plays over that threshold.
Incarnate Word (0-1), who elected to receive the ball first, got the start it was looking for on its first drive. They grinded the Lobos’ defense down, going 13 plays down the field for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
UNM (1-0) showed no signs of worry on its first drive either, rather a sense of confidence. Redshirt sophomore quarterback Tevaka Tuioti proved a good fit in the new spread option, hitting redshirt junior wideout Q’ Drennan for a 40-yard pass to setup a touchdown drive. He then completed a 10-yard pass to sophomore tight end Marcus Williams for a touchdown to tie the game up. The drive took less than two minutes.
But during the reception, Drennan seemed to injure himself. He was carted off the field. At the post game press conference, Davie said it was an injury to the hip, but commented no further on the matter.
Tuioti continued to sling the ball, completing a pass to redshirt sophomore Jay Griffin IV for 34 yards on his second drive, and then hitting redshirt senior Delane Hart-Johnson for a 32-yard pass on the ensuing drive. Tuioti then threw a 69-yard completion to redshirt senior Patrick Reed for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter, to give his team a 28-7 lead.
By the end of the first quarter, Tuioti was 7-for-9 with 192 passing yards, two passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown.
After the Lobos’ fast start on offense in the first quarter, things started to slow down immensely in the second. At the same time, UIW slowly picked up its offensive pace. They held New Mexico scoreless in the quarter, while adding a touchdown and field goal of its own to bring the score to 28-16. With a minute left before halftime--and all the momentum on their side — the Cardinals picked off Tuioti.
But UNM’s defense stepped up, forcing a fumble and getting the ball on its 49 yard line. With less than 30 seconds to go before halftime, Tuioti redeemed his interception from the drive before by hitting junior wideout Elijah Lilly for a 51-yard touchdown through the air to give UNM a 35-16 edge.
Tuioti said that it’s important to move forward from making a mistake — like his interception — and not dwell on the past.
“They always say short term memories are good to have for football,” Tuioti said. “You always forget about the last play and focus on the next play. And so that’s the mindset I had.”
UNM came out firing in the second half, taking only five plays to add yet another touchdown to its statline. The touchdown, however, was set up by a 67-yard run from senior running back Zahneer Shuler. Redshirt senior Tyrone Owens, after another play, then scored from two yards out to make it 41-16 in favor of the Lobos. It was Owens’ second rushing touchdown of the game, his first coming in the first quarter.
Tuioti picked up his fourth touchdown pass of the game in the third quarter after he found the tight end Williams for a second time to extend the lead to 48-16. Prior to that, Tuioti only had four touchdown passes in his career — he doubled his total in one game.
Colton Gerhart, a redshirt senior quarterback who was battling for the starting spot as early as last week, entered during the fourth quarter for the Lobos, as they were already ahead by a significant margin. He then scored on a one-yard rushing touchdown. The extra point made it 55-16.
The Cardinals, already down by multiple touchdowns, were able to put a good drive together in the fourth quarter. UIW quarterback Copeland was able to complete a 43-yard pass to his receiver before he hit senior wideout Phillip Batiste for a 16-yard touchdown.
UNM added another touchdown on a 22-yard pass from junior quarterback Sheriron Jones. Jones entered for Gerhart, who injured his ankle during his touchdown scoring drive, accord to Davie. Davie said that his ankle, according to early reports, looks to be minor.
UIW followed up the ensuing drive with a touchdown to make it 62-30 — the final score of the game.
Tuioti finished 13-for-21 for 327 yards with four passing touchdowns. He also had 54 yards rushing on 11 attempts with one touchdown.
Owens finished with two rushing touchdowns and 58 yards rushing, and Williams finished with two receiving touchdowns.
The official attendance for the game was 18,213, the smallest crowd for a home opener in at least 15 years.
The Lobos will travel to Madison, Wisconsin for a 10:00 a.m. match up with No. 4 Wisconsin, who won its season opener over the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers on Friday.
Matthew Narvaiz is a sports beat reporter and senior writer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers football, however he also contributes content for other sports. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.