The University of New Mexico football team came into Saturday night’s game against undefeated Nevada looking to snap their 11-game losing streak and pick up their first win of the season. The Lobos came up just short of stopping their lengthy winless stretch, falling to the Wolf Pack 27-20.
With the loss, the losing streak for UNM now sits at 12 games, and the theme of second half collapses continued for the third game in a row.
Both teams got off to sluggish starts, as the first three possessions of the game resulted in punts. Momentum shifted to the Lobos, though, when UNM’s defense forced a turnover on downs following a sack of Nevada quarterback Carson Strong by Joey Noble.
UNM cashed in on the turnover, converting a trick play from running back Bryson Carroll with a touchdown pass to quarterback Trae Hall.
Ensuing trickery from the Lobos resulted in a recovered onside kick, followed up with a 7-play, 44-yard scoring drive. UNM’s George Steinkamp nailed a 26-yard field goal to put the Lobos up 10-0.
A poor stretch in the second quarter swung the pendulum of momentum toward the Wolf Pack, as an 8-play, 38-yard drive resulted in a field goal to narrow the Lobos’ lead to a score.
More bad tidings for the Lobos, in the form of an interception by Nevada’s Tyson Williams, resulted in Wolf Pack points as a Strong pass to Romeo Doubs tied the score at 10 apiece.
A 48-yard field goal by Steinkamp gave UNM a 13-10 lead heading into the second half, but Nevada answered in the third quarter with one of their own to tie the game. Another Strong touchdown pass to Doubs for 61 yards made the score 20-13, and UNM would never recover.
While the first two drives of the fourth quarter resulted in consecutive punts, Doubs caught his third touchdown of the night for 59 yards to extend the Nevada lead to 27-13.
Despite the turn of events, UNM made a last second charge as a 7-play drive capped by a Bobby Cole 1-yard touchdown run cut the lead to 27-20.
That was as close as the Lobos got for the rest of the game. UNM’s last attempt to tie the score came up just short, as a 4th and 3 pass attempt was unsuccessful and Nevada ran out the clock.
The story for the Lobos, once again, was their lackluster defense, as Strong was the latest quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards on the UNM defense.
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Nevada wide receiver Doubs torched the Lobos’ secondary for 172 yards and 3 touchdowns.
There were some positives, as the UNM defense only allowed 52 yards in total rushing while forcing two turnovers, but the gains couldn’t lessen the fact that the Lobos’ pass defense is one of the worst in the nation.
For coach Danny Gonzales, it was more reflection on a disappointing outcome for the Lobo football team.
“Close ain’t OK,” Gonzales said, adding that his team shouldn’t “feel good because you played a team that was better than us, going into the game, and you came close … That’s not OK, that’s not what we want around here.”
Gonzales said he believed his team was the more physical group but the feeling of deja vu happened all over again.
“It’s the same old thing, same broken record — we give up three big plays, two of them assignment errors,” Gonzales said, while adding that he is struggling with his team’s woeful defense. “I have never been around guys that give up big plays like that.”
“We gotta get that (big play) fixed … Our biggest opponent right now is the Lobos,” Gonzales said. “The Lobos beat the Lobos tonight … We gave one away that I thought we had a chance to win.”
Up next for UNM is a Nov. 20 matchup with Air Force, nearly a year to the day after the Falcons trounced them 44-22 at University Stadium.
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SpencerButler48