ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — They may be out, but they’re not gone.
LaMar Bratton, the New Mexico Lobos’ starting left guard, said he’s not ready to start missing Kasey Carrier and Cole Gautsche.
Gautsche, UNM’s sophomore starting quarterback, and Carrier, the Lobos’ record-setting running back, will miss the team’s final two games because of concussion symptoms sustained last Saturday in a 66-42 loss to Colorado State.
Bratton and the rest of the players formally got the news Monday afternoon before practice.
They’re still his teammates, Bratton said.
“They’re not gone yet,” he said. “We’ve got two more games (at Fresno State Saturday, at Boise State Nov. 30), so I’m gonna enjoy that, definitely, with them.
“(But) it’s really sad, when you build that strong connection with two great players that have always played so hard and worked so hard. … We’re really hurt without them, but the next guy’s got to step up and we’ll keep on rolling.”
THE NEXT GUY: Junior Clayton Mitchem will start at quarterback at Fresno State, coach Bob Davie said. Junior David Vega is No. 2, with junior Quinton McCown the emergency No. 3.
“We have a lot of confidence in Clayton,” Bratton said. “He’s a great thrower, he’s real shifty, and as long as we’re not bringing him down and always just trying to encouraging him. … We’ll be perfectly fine.”
Junior Crusoe Gongbay, who has averaged 7 yards per carry in relief of Carrier, is the likely starter at running back.
GAUTSCHE’S FUTURE: Davie refused to speculate on Gautsche’s football future, except to say that every precaution would be taken.
The former Cleveland High School star missed a game last year and another earlier this season with concussion symptoms.
“We’re going to pull out all the stops to make sure we do everything we can to first diagnose what the problem is and how severe the problem is, moving forward,” Davie said. “And, obviously err (on the side of) caution.
“Obviously, everyone’s concerned. … It kept me awake (Monday) night, just for him.”
CHA-CHING: The Lobos’ Nov. 30 game at Boise State will be telecast nationally on ESPN2, meaning UNM will collect a $500,000 bonus.
The Mountain West Conference’s TV contract provides for a bonus in that amount for a conference or conference team-hosted game on ESPN, ESPN2 or one of the major over-the-air networks (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox) on a Saturday.
The Lobos’ game Saturday at Fresno State, to be telecast on ESPNews, doesn’t qualify.
But UNM will earn that half a million the hard way. Not only must the Lobos face Boise State (7-3, 5-1), a perennial western college football power, but their faces might turn as blue as the turf at Bronco Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. The average temperatures for Boise on Nov. 30 are a high of 42 degrees and a low of 27.
The Lobos have not appeared on ESPN2 since 2005, when they lost to Colorado State 35-25.
STAT SHEET: After rushing for 278 yards last week against Colorado State – the most the Rams had allowed on the ground in a game this season – the Lobos remain second in the nation in rushing yards per game at 323.8.
On the flip side, CSU’s 347 yards rushing yards against UNM have dropped the Lobos to 122nd nationally – ahead of only New Mexico State – in rushing defense at 262.7 yards per game.
Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs vaulted from 14th to eighth in rushing per game (130.8) on the strength of his 291-yard outburst against UNM. To the surprise of no one, Bibbs was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week.
Carrier, in what would prove to be his final college game, was held to 13 yards on six carries and dropped from 10th to 16th (112.2).
The Lobos rank 115th in total defense (494.2 yards per game), 117th in scoring defense (39.9).
Lobos senior punter Ben Skaer ranks fourth nationally in punting average at 46.5 yards per attempt. Skaer has not punted in UNM’s last two games.
Sophomore Carlos Wiggins is one of four players who has returned two kickoffs for touchdowns this season. He ranks seventh in kickoff-return average (28.8).