FEATURE PHOTO FROM UNM ATHLETIC COMMUNICATIONS: UNM’s Kentrail Moran scores from 1 yard out vs. Colorado State on Friday night.
By Greg Archuleta
Enchantment Sports Assistant Editor
The venue for Friday night’s Mountain West football game should have been called “Bad Dream-style Stadium” because it was a nightmare — especially for the home team.
Colorado State fumbled twice in UNM territory — once at the Lobo goal line for a touchback — and dropped what could have been another 50-yard pass into New Mexico territory. And the hapless Rams still managed to put away the imploding Lobos 35-21.
CSU improved to 2-5 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain West. The Lobos (2-4, 0-2) lost their third straight with no end in sight.
UNM coach Bob Davie, who guided the program back from a 3-33 mark before his arrival to a 9-4 record in 2016, is 8-22 in his last 30 games.
“We’re six games into the season; we’re halfway through,” Davie said when asked about his job security. “That, really for me is of zero — zero — issue. I’ll take full responsibility. That’s what it is. That’s what this profession is.”
With that in mind, here are three takeaways from UNM’s loss to the Rams.
1 Is this the end of the road for Davie?
The Lobo coach told Enchantment Sports before the season that the football program should be judged on whether it can reach bowl-eligibility.
In 2012, Davie’s team ended the season on a six-game losing streak. In both 2017 and 2018, the Lobos lost seven straight to finish the year.
With the loss Friday night, UNM lost its third straight and faces a second-half schedule of teams with a combined 22-8 record. CSU was the Lobos’ most winnable game. Davie has never beaten the Rams.
New Mexico played a cleaner game than it did a week ago in its 32-21 loss at San Jose State, but it still committed three fourth-quarter turnovers that cost it the game.
Davie said he wanted to leave the program in better shape than when he inherited it. Because of the train wreck that was the 2011 season, when Mike Locksley was fired four games into the season and multiple players decided to leave the program — while the season was still going on — that is a guarantee Davie will accomplish his goal.
But the Lobos could finish 2-10 in 2019, one game better than the 1-11 mark prior to his arrival.
The question about Davie’s exit appears to be a matter of “when,” now, rather than “if.”
2. Yea on Bryson Carroll; nay on Sheriron Jones but that second point is moot.
Sophomore Carroll made his first start at tailback and almost didn’t disappoint. He had 193 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. He showed spectacular speed on a 56-yard run in the first quarter that was both the highlight and lowlight of his performance.
Carroll took the handoff at the UNM 43 and burst down the west sidelines untouched. Mystifyingly, he started celebrating and dropped the football before he reached the goal line.
Fortunately for the Lobos, CSU did not pick up the loose ball, making it dead and giving UNM the ball at the Rams 1. Kentrail Moran took it in on the next play.
Jones completed 2 of 6 passes in the first half for 11 yards, but the Lobos didn’t commit any turnovers and had actually had a 14-7 lead with 7:59 left in the second quarter.
Had UNM kept the lead or even stayed tied with CSU, Jones might’ve been able to carry the offense to a win.
But the Rams scored two touchdowns in the final 4:13 of the half, and that turned Jones into more of a passing QB in the second half.
He was able to keep UNM within 28-21 in the fourth quarter but then turned the ball over on the Lobos’ final three possessions — two fumbles and a turnover — that ended all hope of a win.
Davie started Jones because of his effort last week against San Jose State, but he couldn’t create any big plays against CSU.
Jones finished 8 of 17 for 89 yards with the interception.
During the postgame news conference, Davie made it seem the ship is Jones’ to steer for the foreseeable future. He said the reason Tevaka Tuioti did not play was that “he didn’t seem ready to go” during pregame warmups.
Davie said offensive coordinator Joe Dailey made that determination after a conversation with Tuioti during the pregame.
Asked after the game whether the Lobos would allow QB Trae Hall to get involved in the offense, Davie said, “I don’t think so, especially considering how hard Sheriron plays.”
3. False advertising for the Lobo defense
In the offseason, Davie promised an attacking defense that would not allow opposing quarterbacks to pick apart the UNM secondary.
After six games, the Lobos are a safe bet to remain last in the FBS (130 teams) in passing yards allowed after giving up 420 to Rams QB Patrick O’Brien.
UNM did collect four sacks on O’Brien, the one in the second half poised to loom large as it pushed CSU back to a 46-yard field goal attempt that it missed to keep the Rams lead at 28-21 in the fourth quarter.
But the offense gave the ball back on a questionable fumble, and CSU scored the game-winning TD on — what else? — a 27-yard O’Brien touchdown pass.
There is the excuse that the Lobos lost nose tackle Aaron Blackwell to a torn ACL in the season opener against Sam Houston State. But if losing that one player was going to make that much difference, then why completely alter the defense?
Even in UNM’s defensive heyday during the Rocky Long years, it took the program three years before the unit came to life.
Davie couldn’t possibly have entered 2019 thinking he would have three years to get his attacking defense in place.
He acknowledged after the game that his secondary is extremely inexperienced and then had a couple of players exit due to injury.
While that is true, that is a hollow excuse for a coach in his eighth season in the program. Davie elected to go the junior college route a few years back, which has stripped the defense of the depth it needs to compete in the Mountain West.