Editor's note: Head coach Bob Davie was rushed to the hospital immediately following Saturday's game. Updates will be posted at the bottom of this article.
The University of New Mexico football team withstood a late rally to hold off Sam Houston State in its season opener on Saturday evening — leaving Dreamstyle Stadium with a 39-31 victory.
Sam Houston State racked up over 550 yards of total offense — including 443 through the air — but fell short of pulling off an improbable comeback after the defense came up with a stop late in the game.
The school traded punts on its opening possessions, but the Lobos got the offense going and made up for lost time — amassing 195 yards on the way to scoring 13 points in the opening quarter.
New Mexico scored the first points of the season off the foot of Andrew Shelley when he booted through a 44-yard field goal on the team’s second possession. Lobo running back Ahmari Davis helped set things up after he leaked out of the backfield and caught a pass from starting quarterback Brandt Hughes, weaving his way in and out of traffic for a gain of 51 yards. UNM got into scoring range shortly thereafter when Sam Houston State was flagged for pass interference and Shelley later delivered for an early 3-0 lead.
UNM benefitted from another Bearkat penalty on the subsequent possession when a personal foul penalty on third down extended the drive and allowed Shelley to cap things off with a 41-yard field goal.
Sam Houston State’s woes continued the next time the offense trotted out, going three-and-out and having to punt the ball from its own end zone. It enables the Lobos to start things off from the Bearkat 47-yard line and New Mexico.
Davis rattled off a nifty run and cut back to create a scoring opportunity, galloping 43 yards into the end zone to increase the lead to 13-0.
The run allowed Davis to eclipse 100 yards of total offense in just the first quarter alone — 54 yards on the ground to go along with another 51 yards receiving.
Things went from bad to worse for the road team. Sam Houston State’s offense was able to escape the shadows of its own end zone but fumbled the ball after Lobo cornerback De’John Rogers forced the ball loose from Bearkat receiver Coree Compton near midfield.
New Mexico capitalized on the mistake again and picked up the second quarter right where it left off in the first, scoring another field goal to move out in front 16-0.
But then Sam Houston State started clicking on offense and quickly closed the gap. Bearkat quarterback Ty Brock connected with Dee Bowens for a long touchdown reception that spanned 65 yards, but failed to convert the extra point and trailed 16-6.
After the Lobos went three-and-out, the Bearkats struck again, this time with a different quarterback behind center. Eric Schmid engineered a 79-yard drive that took nine plays, calling his own number and trotting in for a 4-yard touchdown run to make it a 16-13 game.
The Lobos fortune returned later in the second quarter when Hughes tried to find Marcus Williams but threw the ball into double coverage. A pass that probably should’ve been a sure interception ricocheted off the defender and the intended receiver, Williams, was quick to snare the loose ball for a 35-yard gain. Two plays later, Davis plunged into the end zone from two yards out for the score. But this time it was the Lobos who failed to convert an extra point, keeping the score 22-13.
Sam Houston State was able to tally another score just before the half, notching three points off a low, line-drive field goal from its kicker, Connor Crow, in the final minute to cut the deficit to 22-16 at halftime.
New Mexico’s lead was short lived as the Bearkats methodically drove down the field when the teams returned from the locker room after the break. Sam Houston State had six plays that garnered 10 or more yards and wasted little time, scoring in the first 2:20 to take a 23-22 lead.
The Lobos lost its starting quarterback after Hughes left the game with an apparent shoulder injury, but Sheriron Jones came on in relief and helped his team reestablish control. Shelley kicked his fourth field goal of the game to give the Lobos the lead for good with 5:12 left in the third quarter.
After the defense came through with a big fourth-down stand, Jones found Jordan Kress for a 47-yard gain and ran the ball in for a touchdown later in the drive to give the Lobos a 32-23 advantage.
Davis recorded his first 100-yard rushing game of his career and helped UNM create more separation early in the fourth quarter — rattling off a 53-yard run and setting up another Jones touchdown. The quarterback kept the ball and hit the pylon while diving in for the score as the lead swelled to 39-23.
Sam Houston State made things interested in the waning stages of the game, as Brock reentered the game and put together a 12-play drive that culminated in a touchdown and 2-point conversion to make it a single-possession game with 3:01 remaining in the game.
The Bearkats were able to successfully execute an onside kick, even after the Lobos burned a timeout to discuss things before the play. Sam Houston State busted out a trick play, running a flea flicker that was good for 32 yards.
But getting into scoring position wasn’t good enough and the Lobo defense refused to give up any more ground, stopping the Bearkats for a loss on three of the next four plays. New Mexico linebacker Jacobi Hearn ended the threat by sacking Brock on fourth down for an 8-yard loss, effectively ending the game.
The Lobos took over on downs with 1:22 and killed the rest of the clock after the Bearkats burned their final timeout to preserve the 39-31 victory.
New Mexico will enjoy an open date before it travels to face Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana on Sept. 14.
On the way to the press conference, several members of the UNM Athletics staff could be seen outside the Tow Diehm Athletic Facility calling out for paramedic personnel to assist someone nearby. Emergency responders were observed running toward the area to address the situation.
A short time later, a spokesperson addressed the media and informed them that neither coach Davie nor the players would be available for interview and that UNM Athletic Director Eddie Nuñez would be issuing a statement.
Shortly thereafter, Nuñez released the following statement:
“Immediately following tonight’s football game between The University of New Mexico and Sam Houston State University, Lobo head coach Bob Davie was taken to the hospital as a result of what appeared to be a serious medical incident. The university will release more information as it becomes available. We ask that you keep the Davie family in your prayers.”
On Sunday, Davie released a statement saying he expected to make a "full recovery."
Angelina Pompeo contributed writing and reporting to this story.
Robert Maler is a 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