UNM Will Face Struggling Rebels in Las Vegas Today
The New Mexico Lobos have made it to November.
Can they make it to December?
This week, while the Lobos prepared for today’s Mountain West Conference football game at UNLV, first-year coach Bob Davie – as he had since the topic first came up – downplayed talk of a possible bowl bid for his team.
UNM at UNLV, 2 p.m., Comcast (Channel 77 in ABQ, 21 in Santa Fe), 770 AM
New Mexico (4-5, overall, 1-3 in Mountain West play) needs seven victories to become bowl-eligible and be playing next month. The Lobos must win three of their remaining four games, starting with the Rebels (1-8, 1-3).
The bowl scenario, however, took a hit the past two weeks. The Lobos lost at Air Force, despite rushing for more than 400 yards, and to Fresno State, despite building an early 21-0 lead.
Still, three of UNM’s remaining four opponents – UNLV, Wyoming and Colorado State – have a combined record of 4-21. Even Nevada (6-3) appears vulnerable, based on its shaky defense.
Even so, Davie isn’t buying what fans and media are selling.
In April during spring practice, and again when fall camp began in August, he wondered whether he’d have enough healthy players by November to field a team.
He does, and he gratefully chooses not to look past this afternoon.
“We’ve won four,” he said. “It will be a tremendous challenge to win five. … The bowl talk is kind of fun, but that’s a bit of a reach for us.”
Until a bowl is out of reach, said junior defensive end Jacori Greer, he won’t stop reaching.
“Our biggest fear, I think, is falling short, like one or two games,” he said. “Especially (considering) the games we could have won previously.
“We’re on the edge. We’re really trying to make this thing happen.”
Such thoughts are not limited to the players.
“Nobody on this team has played in a bowl game, ever,” said defensive line coach Archie McDaniel. “For it to be November and still be in a position where that’s possible, I think for those guys it would be huge.”
Today’s game is a matchup between teams picked to finish last (New Mexico) and next to last (UNLV) in preseason reckoning. That could still happen, considering each team has only one conference victory.
It’s clear, though, that overall, New Mexico has exceeded expectations in Davie’s first year – and equally so that the Rebels have taken a tumble in Bobby Hauck’s third.
In July at Mountain West Media Day, Hauck (5-29 at UNLV) said he was confident he could build a winner in Las Vegas but didn’t know how much time it would take or how much time he would get.
Time could be running out. Will the Rebels play today with back-to-the-wall ferocity, or did their heartbreaking loss to archrival Nevada on Oct. 13 – they led 31-14 but lost 42-37 – take too much out of them?
Hauck said he has seen no quit in his team.
“We’re working hard; we’re playing hard; we’re being really physical,” Hauck said. “The games have all been really competitive; we just can’t get the W’s.
“… We’re tired of being close. We want to win.”
Davie has said many times, and did so again this week, that the New Mexico job he accepted a year ago might be the most challenging in the country.
He might want to compare notes with Hauck, who left Montana – having compiled an 80-17 record there – to take over a program that has had just one winning season since 1994. Sending their sons to school in Sin City is something many parents hesitate to do.
Records aside, Davie looks at UNLV and sees considerable resemblance to his own program.
“We go to Las Vegas this weekend against a team that’s in a rebuilding mode, much as we are,” Davie said. “… I can see them making progress, and I respect that. So, it’s a battle of two teams that are trying to get better.”
It’s also a battle between a team playing for nothing but pride and another playing for a chance to still be putting on pads in December.