The University of New Mexico football team is looking to improve after an abysmal 2021 season, having gone 3-9 for the season. If the Lobos hope to improve, stepping up their offense would be a step in the right direction; last season, the Lobos finished last in scoring in the Mountain West by a margin of 94 points. They were also bottom three in first downs and in most passing and rushing stats.
UNM will look to change that behind transfer quarterback Miles Kendrick, who played for the University of Kansas. Kendrick played in 17 games and started four for the Jayhawks. His Big 12 experience could be invaluable to the team. Kendrick had a completion percentage of 66.7% on 18 attempts last season and also displayed some ability to run the ball, rushing for 73 yards on 13 attempts.
The running back position will have to be played by committee after losing two of last year’s most valuable offensive players: Bobby Cole and Aaron Dumas. Expect to see a lot from Nathaniel Jones, who will be back in the lineup after missing all of last season.
UNM retained wide receivers Luke Wysong and Andrew Erickson, who were first and fourth respectively in receiving yards for the team last season. They added transfer Geordon Porter, who played six games for the Arizona State Sun Devils last season. Porter has the tools to play in the starting lineup, but he had to take a back seat to Arizona’s run first offense.
The scoreboard and team record does not reflect how well the defense played last year. UNM gave up 4357 yards last season, the second fewest in the Mountain West. The Lobos also had the fourth best defense in the conference in yards per game, allowing an average of 363.1 yards. The defense also allowed the third fewest opponent first downs last season.
The Lobos are stacked at the safety position with all three starters returning for the season. Jerrick Reed II not only led the team with 89 tackles, but he was also 14th in the conference in total tackles. Tavian Combs is not far behind him with 81 tackles last season. Combs also tied with Ronald Wilson with each having two interceptions last season to lead UNM.
The defensive line features a lot of returning players, incoming freshmen and transfers that will have to make up for losing Joey Noble who, last season, was third on the team in tackles and fourteenth in the conference in sacks with 6.5. Ray Leutele and Justin Harris both return to the line, having had four sacks each last season.
Danny Gonzales starts his third season as head coach. His record currently sits at 5-14, winning two games in the shortened 2020 season and going 3-9 last year. Gonzales is facing a major year in his rebuild of the program while entering the third year of his five-year contract.
Last season proved that, despite a good defense, you still need to score points to win football games. To get into the realm of being invited to a bowl game, the Lobos have to make it work on offense. There is cause for optimism — last season’s young defense got a year under their belt and the offense is getting new talent and retaining important players — but they still have to prove it on the field.
Thomas Bulger is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @thomasbulger10