ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — As for this season, could have been better.
Could have been worse.
Time to move on – well, except for one small detail:
With one game left to play this season, in which the New Mexico Lobos are five-touchdown underdogs, most of the discussion this week has been about the future.
What can coach Bob Davie and his staff do in the offseason to plug their leaky defense? What adjustments should they make to an effective but unorthodox offense?
As for those first 11 games, any honest postmortem would conclude that it has been a disappointing season.
Yes, the Lobos were predicted to finish sixth and last in the Mountain West Conference’s Mountain Division. Unless Air Force can upset Colorado State today, the Lobos, having beaten the Falcons, will finish fifth by themselves. So, there’s that.
There’s also this: UNM is just 14 points removed from being 1-10 entering today’s finale. And this: The aforementioned leaky defense has given up as many as 820 yards and no fewer than 445 in the Lobos’ last nine games.
For Davie, a career defensive coach, it’s almost literally a nightmare. This week, he talked of waking with a start in the middle of the night, trying to make sense of the 135 points and the 1,469 yards his team gave up the past two weeks in lopsided losses to Colorado State and Fresno State.
“You try to make sense of it,” he said, “and you can’t.”
Yet, Davie said, he and his staff are taking a sensible approach to the problems they face.
“I understand why (the program is where it is), and I’m committed to getting it fixed,” he said. “I’m not panicking, and I’m not losing confidence.
“I’m not losing enthusiasm about this place and what this place can be.”
Morale, he said, has not been a problem and is not a problem.
“These kids have been unbelievable,” he said. “… I’m 100 percent pleased with that piece of it. I could not be more happy with the way guys react to things.”
Injuries have not been kind to the Lobos of late. At Boise, they’ll be without starting quarterback Cole Gautsche, starting running back Kasey Carrier and starting defensive end Brett Bowers. Several backups are out, and several starters will play with significant injuries.
The schedule-makers weren’t kind to the Lobos, either. Their three West Division cross-over opponents, UNLV, San Diego State and Fresno State, have a combined record of 23-10. The other three West Division teams, San Jose State, Nevada and Hawaii, are a combined 10-24.
The Lobos are scheduled to play Fresno State, San Diego State and UNLV again next year. Only the home field changes.
Because of UNM’s devastating loss to Fresno State last week, the Lobos (3-8 overall, 1-6 in Mountain West play) are more decided underdogs against Boise State (7-4, 5-2) than they were going in against the nationally ranked Bulldogs.
This isn’t your typical Boise State team: The Broncos hadn’t lost four games in a season since 2005 and had done so only once since 1998.
But, in sharp contrast, New Mexico hasn’t won more than four games in a season since 2007.
The chances of the Lobos giving the Broncos the kind of scare they did last year – rallying from a 29-0 halftime deficit and losing 32-29 – are greatly reduced by injuries, particularly the unavailability of Gautsche to run the triple-option component of the UNM offense.
“I feel bad that (the seniors) are leaving on this note,” Davie said, referring to the season thus far. “But the good news is, we have one more game – one more game to go play.”
Linebacker Dallas Bollema, a fifth-year senior, has seen 10 victories and 50 defeats during his time at UNM.
Whatever the odds, he’s thinking 11-50 – not 10-51.
“It’s my last game ever,” Bollema said. “… We come in every week and put in the game plan. And that’s the plan – to win.”