The 2020 edition of the University of New Mexico football team continued its winless start to the pandemic-plagued season as the Lobos (0-2) lost 39-33 to Hawaii on Saturday, Nov. 7.
While the Lobos looked to end their losing streak — which is now up to 11 consecutive games starting with a Sept. 28, 2019 loss at Liberty — that hope would fade by the end of the evening.
Things seemed to be in UNM’s favor at the start of the game, as the Lobos flew out to an early 7-0 lead after a three play, 65-yard drive, capped off by a Tevaka Tuioti pass to Jordan Kress for 52 yards.
It wouldn’t take long for Hawaii to respond, as the Rainbow Warriors (2-1) completed a 12-play, 67-yard drive that ended with Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro rushing 5 yards for a touchdown to tie the score at 7-7.
Despite the change in momentum, UNM created another strong drive that got to the Hawaii 9-yard line.
Alas, the Lobos couldn’t capitalize in the red zone and were forced to settle for a field goal, making the score 10-7.
With Hawaii looking to gain its first lead of the game, the Lobos defense made a critical stop and got the ball back to UNM’s hot offense.
The stop the Lobos were looking for came in the form of a turnover, as UNM forced its first takeaway of the year. First-year Lobo Jerrick Reed II intercepted Cordeiro, giving the Lobos the ball back at the Hawaii 29-yard line.
UNM quickly capitalized on the turnover, and on the next play Tuioti found Kress in the end zone, extending the Lobos’ lead to 10.
Another UNM stop and score widened the lead to 20-7 with 14:50 left in the first half.
Hawaii finally responded as Cordeiro threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to Nick Mardner, cutting the lead to 20-14.
The once-inspired Lobo offense began to cool off, as their next two drives resulted in punts.
In the meantime, the Rainbow Warriors were looking to take a halftime lead and switch momentum in their favor, but another interception by the Lobo defense kept UNM in the lead at 20-14 going into the half.
With hope rekindled, the Lobos looked to close out their first victory of the Danny Gonzales era, but it wasn’t to be.
The second half began with another touchdown relinquished by the Lobo defense, as Cordeiro threw another touchdown, this time to Zion Bowens for 42 yards that gave Hawaii a 21-20 lead.
The Cordeiro-to-Bowens connection resulted in another touchdown on Hawaii’s next offensive possession, this time for 40 yards, extending the Rainbow Warrior lead to 28-20.
The now-struggling Lobos got back in the game with a 7-play, 76-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown produced by a Nathaniel Jones 26-yard run. Another Lobo defensive stop gave UNM the chance to retake the lead, and a field goal delivered a 30-28 lead with 13 minutes left.
The lead was short-lived as Hawaii delivered another big play with Cordeiro’s fourth touchdown of the game to Calvin Turner, a 64-yard score. A UNM fumble resulted in a Hawaii field goal on the ensuing drive.
UNM got one final chance to retake the lead, but a Hawaii interception sealed the second defeat of the season for the visitors.
Gonzales was less than pleased with his team’s continued penchant for racking up miserable numbers in passing yards allowed.
“I’m going to sound like a broken record, but you can’t give up big plays in the passing game like we have,” Gonzales said, a reference to Cordeiro’s 410 passing yards and an FBS-worst 445.5 passing yards allowed per game. ”We’ve got to coach (our defense) better.”
Gonzales also questioned his team’s overall mental fortitude and attributed their defensive losses on the field to emotional vulnerability.
“The team looked tired ... Well, if they’re tired, that means we’re not mentally tough enough, and that’s ridiculous,” Gonzales said. “Part of the problem is that we have way too many guys that have feelings that are way too soft. You should have your feelings hurt when you give up long touchdowns.”
Gonzales announced on Tuesday that Tuioti has a concussion and will be unavailable for the Nov. 14 tilt against Nevada. Trae Hall will start in his place.
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SpencerButler48