Over there is Jim McElwain, with a 6-6 record in his second season at Colorado State. If the Rams beat Air Force (2-9) on Saturday, they’ll be bowl-eligible.
Way over there is Tim DeRuyter, with a 10-0 record in his second season at Fresno State. The Bulldogs are ranked 16th in the nation and are in contention for a berth in a BCS bowl.
Oh, and way, way over there is Norm Chow, 0-11 in his second season at Hawaii. But the Rainbow Warriors are irrelevant to the case Davie has been making to the Albuquerque news media the past two weeks, as his Lobos lost 66-42 to McElwain’s Rams and 69-28 to DeRuyter’s Bulldogs.
There are second-year programs like DeRuyter’s and McElwain’s, he says, and second-year programs like his at UNM.
DeRuyter and McElwain, Davie points out, are winning with third-, fourth- and fifth-year players recruited by their predecessors.
The Lobos, in contrast, are losing with lineups studded with freshmen and sophomores.
Therein, Davie says, lies the difference.
“I don’t want to try to put a spin on something or provide a safety net for me or for our staff or for our program,” Davie says. “But you always try to be realistic and be dead honest (about) why it is this way and what we have to do to solve it.”
Davie certainly has done his homework.
Fresno State, he says, started just one offensive player – Brigham Young transfer running back Josh Quezada – who was brought into the program by DeRuyter. All the others, including the brilliant pitch-and-catch combination of quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Davante Adams, were recruited by former Bulldogs coach Pat Hill and his staff.
Carr is a senior, Adams a redshirt sophomore.
On defense, Davie says, Fresno State played two DeRuyter recruits in its rout of the Lobos.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” he says.
The numbers are similar for McElwain at Colorado State. Even star running back Kapri Bibbs, a first-year, junior college transfer, committed to CSU when Steve Fairchild was the coach.
As for the Lobos, Davie notes that seven true or redshirt freshmen played against Fresno State on defense. Four other UNM defenders were in their first year of college football at their positions.
On offense at Fresno State, the Lobos played two true freshmen and three walk-ons.
“Not as bad,” Davie says, but also notes that starting quarterback Cole Gautsche and starting running back Kasey Carrier didn’t play at Fresno State. Nor will they play Saturday at Boise State, both sidelined for the remainder of the season due to concussion symptoms.
Because of scholarship reductions due to NCAA sanctions levied in 2008, and player attrition from 2009-11, UNM’s current senior and junior classes are depleted – hence, the necessity to play freshmen and sophomores, in many cases when those players would have been better off redshirting.
Excuses? Spin? A safety net?
“That’s for you (news media) guys to decide,” Davie says. “I’m giving you what I see in my world.”
The good news, Davie says, is that all the underclassmen who played this year, plus 20-some who sat out as redshirts, will be back next season – and the one after that, and so on.
“Don’t judge us on Colorado State, Fresno, Boise,” he says. “Judge us on what it was two years ago (the third of three consecutive 1-11 seasons) compared to what it is now and what you think it can be two years from now.”
FINAL LAP: After Wednesday’s practice, the Lobos’ departing seniors took a last lap around the University Stadium field.
They then gathered under the south goal post and walked through a tunnel created by their teammates, as their names appeared on the giant scoreboard/video board at the north end of the stadium.
“It’s what college football is,” Davie said. “Guys make an unbelievable investment. And the last game they play doesn’t mean it’s the last investment they’re going to make to this place … and also what they can get back from this program.
“I just feel bad that these kids are leaving on this note (a losing season). But the good news is we have one more game to go play.”