ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Who will play quarterback for the New Mexico Lobos against Utah State on Saturday at University Stadium?
Come to the game and find out, coach Bob Davie said on Sunday.
Cole Gautsche, the Lobos’ starting quarterback, injured a knee last Saturday late in UNM’s 38-31 loss to Wyoming. Clayton Mitchem, the No. 2 quarterback, missed the Wyoming game after exhibiting concussion-like symptoms stemming from hits he took in UNM’s 66-17 victory over New Mexico State on Oct. 5.
Sunday, Davie expressed cautious optimism that Gautsche’s injury – tentatively diagnosed as a sprained MCL – would not keep him out of the Utah State game. He said there’s a good chance Mitchem will be ready.
Still, he said, junior walk-on David Vega will begin the week as the No. 1 quarterback. Vega threw a touchdown pass to Marquis Bundy at Wyoming after relieving Gautsche.
“So, we’ll kind of see how it goes,” Davie said – then added that he would say no more about the situation.
“I think what I’m going to do,” he said, “is probably not talk about (injuries) this week like most coaches do around the country, … I think the next time I’ll say anything about it is after the game.”
Davie said he was pleased with the play of Vega, who had runs of 6 and 9 yards on that final drive before hitting Bundy with a 23-yard touchdown pass.
“He’s got a lot of confidence,” Davie said. “… He stepped up and delivered a strike.”
SPECIAL FOR A REASON: The Lobos (2-4 overall, 0-2 in Mountain West Conference play) continue to get strong performances from their special teams.
Against Wyoming, with New Mexico trailing 21-10 in the third quarter, the punt coverage team forced (Crusoe Gongbay) and recovered (Cranston Jones) a fumble that set up the UNM offense on the Cowboys 8-yard line. Running back Jhurell Pressley scored on the next play.
Sophomore Carlos Wiggins returned two kickoffs for an average of 38 yards, prompting Wyoming to “pooch” their final kickoff in an effort to keep the ball way from him.
Senior Ben Skaer punted five times for a 51.2-yard average.
“We’ve spent a lot of time on special teams,” Davie said after the game, “and we continue to get rewarded for the time we spend.”
THE CASE FOR CARRIER: Was Lobo senior running back Kasey Carrier’s performance at Wyoming game the best of his record-breaking career?
It might have been, even though his rushing total of 104 yards (on 24 carries) is less than a third of his single-game career best.
Yards rushing were surprisingly hard to come by against the Cowboys, who found ways to disrupt the UNM triple option. Carrier’s longest run from scrimmage was just 13 yards.
Yet, finding the narrowest of creases and keeping his legs churning, he got his 100-plus yards.
Then, there was his 24-yard, sideline-hugging touchdown on a swing pass from Gautsche that tied the game at 24 on the fourth play of the fourth quarter.
“The defense thought I was gonna go out of bounds,” Carrier said after the game. “I decided not to, and it worked out pretty good.”
Carrier, Davie said, “is a total team player and one tough guy. I thought (Saturday) might have been one of his best performances, because he earned everything he got in that game.”
STAT SHEET: The Lobos are no longer the nation’s leader in rushing. Army, which rushed for 513 yards in a 50-25 win over Eastern Michigan, bumped UNM to No. 2 after a one-week stay at the top. The Lobos had 276 yards on the ground against Wyoming.
The Cadets are averaging 352.3 yards per game, the Lobos 349. 3.
Wiggins, after his two kickoff returns against the Cowboys, ranks second nationally with a 33.4-yard average on 15 returns.
The Lobos are No. 2 nationally in net punting average (punts minus returns and touchbacks) at 43.57.
END OF THE STREAK: Before Gautsche threw an interception at Wyoming in the fourth quarter, the Lobos had thrown 81 passes without one. New Mexico was the last FBS team not to have thrown a pick.