Koz and Effect: Bob Davie’s Lobo football reclamation project off to a silent start

Bob Davie deserves credit for rebuilding the University of New Mexico football program after its collapse during the Mike Locksley era.

If he rebuilds it again, he’ll deserve to be called Bob Houdini.

Davie took over a program that had won three of its previous 40 games to back-to-back postseason appearances in 2015-2016.

Greg Archuleta

Davie and his program had all the momentum in the world after sharing the 2016 Mountain West Mountain Division title, winning the 2016 New Mexico Bowl, finishing the season 9-4 AND returning its starting quarterback for 2017.

The results since have been head-scratching.

Where we stand

The Lobos have turned in identical 3-9 seasons in 2017 and 2018, capping both with seven-game losing streaks and 1-7 records in Mountain West play. UNM has gone 3-16 over its last 19 games.

Athletic director Eddie Nuñez announced on Nov. 30 that Davie would return as coach in 2019.

“After meeting with Coach Davie, both he and I are looking forward to the 2019 season. Recruiting is already in full swing. Since taking over in 2012, the team has set records in the classroom, won a division title and qualified for two bowl games. Neither Coach Davie nor I were satisfied with the results of last season. Coach Davie and his staff, as well as our department, are striving to make the 2019 season a success, and that process has already started.

“Coach Davie wants to be at New Mexico and wants nothing more than a program that our University and our fans can be proud of. He is committed to working tirelessly to return UNM to the level of success in 2015 and 2016. We both are excited for the upcoming 2019 season.”

Notice in that statement that nowhere does Nuñez state that the school is confident Davie can return the program to the level of success it achieved in 2015 and 2016.

But it may have been former offensive line coach Jason Lenzmeier’s departure in the summer prior to the 2016 season that set the wheels in motion for the program’s regression.

The offense led the nation in rushing in 2016, averaging 350 yards per game under first-year line coach Saga Tuitele, but he was on the job really for about a month before the 2016 season began, so who should get more of the credit for the line’s play in 2016?

Look at the rushing totals since: 235.4 yards per game in 2017 and 153.2 yards per game in 2018. That amounts to a 56.2 percent drop in production from its zenith. In defense of Tuitele, he’s only had a say on the line recruits UNM has acquired the last two years. Let’s see how the line performs in 2019.

Starting over on offense and defense

Davie felt that MW foes were catching on to his signature triple-option offense, so he let go offensive coordinator and triple-option guru Bob DeBesse after the 2017 season.

Ex-Lobo offensive coordinator Calvin Magee

He brought in Calvin Magee from Arizona, hoping that a change to the spread-option would reinvigorate the offense.

Instead, the offense averaged 330 yards per game in 2018 — the lowest in Davie’s first seven years at the school and 20 yards fewer than the unit’s rushing average in 2016. Part of the struggles was due to the season-ending, broken clavicle injury to quarterback Tevaka Tuioti, but the Lobos routinely used multiple quarterbacks in past seasons and had greater success.

Now, Magee has bolted, and Davie has replaced him with former Liberty offensive coordinator Joe Dailey.

The Flames, who put up 52 points on the Lobos last season, had some impressive stats under Dailey.

But so did Arizona under Magee the year before.

Davie also has had to hire a new strength and conditioning coach (Scott Holsopple) and has a vacancy on the defensive coaching staff with the departure of Archie McDaniel, who left to become co-defensive coordinator at Texas State.

So while the offense will be going through some changes, Davie already has stated that he wants to revamp the defense under coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, so that side of the ball also will undergo changes.

More visible in the community?

And the recent lawsuit of a woman claiming UNM failed to thoroughly investigate a claim of rape she made against former Lobo Nias Martin has reminded Lobo fans of Davie’s 30-day suspension last year, in part for his response to the woman’s claims, according to an independent investigation.

That has been Davie’s latest involvement in the community.

Other than a roundtable with media immediately after the season and a news conference to announce 2019 recruits, Davie has been noticeably absent in trying to reconnect with a fan base that has turned its back on him.

A former player during the Rocky Long era recently expressed disappointment that Davie had taken down the framed pro football jerseys from the walls of the team’s offices on the second floor of the Tow Diehm Complex.

UNM assistant athletic director for communications Frank Mercogliano said the framed jerseys had been taken down because the walls were being painted but did not know if they had been re-hung.

Still, the former player also said the football alumni base currently is none too happy with the current coach.

Suffice it to say Davie has some work to do before the start of the 2019 season — unless his idea of becoming Houdini is to hold steady on his annual offseason disappearing act.

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