The University of New Mexico football team will return home this weekend after two road losses against Texas A&M University on Sept. 18 and the University of Texas at El Paso on Sept. 25. These losses put UNM at 2-2 as they prepare to enter conference play against the United States Air Force Academy on Oct. 2.
Texas A&M is the only team ranked in The Associated Press’ top 25 that UNM was scheduled to play, and it was expected to be a hard game for the Lobos. In the game, Aggies quarterback Zach Calzada threw for three touchdowns and 275 yards, and Aggies running back Isaiah Spiller ran the ball 117 yards. With Lobos quarterback Terry Wilson held to only 33 yards for the entire game, UNM was outmatched, as was reflected in the final score 0-34.
UNM head coach Danny Gonzales said he didn’t think his team believed that they could play with a team as good as Texas A&M, which was their downfall.
After the drubbing laid by the Aggies, UNM trekked to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas to take on UTEP. Trouble began not long after the Lobos arrived, as six offensive players, including wide receiver Mannie Logan-Greene — who is UNM’s leader in total yards — were unavailable to play the game due to COVID-19 protocols. This meant that the undermanned Lobos needed to get production from unlikely sources; head coach Danny Gonzales opted to start wide receivers Luke Wysong, Jace Taylor and Austin Erickson.
Eventually, UNM scored a touchdown to put themselves up 7-0 on a Wilson run, and the Lobo defense continued to impress by holding the Miners to zero points in the first quarter. The second quarter was a field goal battle between opposing kickers Andrew Shelley (UNM) and Gavin Baechle (UTEP); Shelley was able to make two while Baechle kicked one in, making the score 13-3 going into halftime. UTEP went up again with two touchdowns in the third quarter.
Down 17-13, the Lobos needed an offensive spark that never came. The Miners kicked a late field goal to make the score 20-13 and, although UNM tried a late drive to tie the game, the Lobos turned the ball over on downs and fell to UTEP 20-13.
“We should have won,” Gonzales said. “We made too many mistakes in the secondary, and we didn’t block worth a darn, especially in the second half on offense.”
Gonzales said he thought two specific plays made a difference: two interception opportunities by Donte Martin and Jerrick Reed II were dropped, flipping the momentum.
“Now we’ve lost two (games),” Gonzales said. “We’re 2-2. We could’ve been 3-1. Give credit to UTEP. They whooped our tail in the second half. I thought we were content at halftime.”
UNM will play Air Force (3-1) at University Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 2 to open up Mountain West conference play. Air Force has the #1 ranked rushing offense in the country, averaging 357.2 yards per game. However, UNM may prove to be a good foil to the Falcons as they are tied for the twelfth-best rushing defense in college football. The overall outcome will depend on the Lobos’ ability to stop Air Force on the rush.
Spencer Butler is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SpencerButler48