ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The building blocks are there.
They are juniors like Clayton Mitchem, Brett Bowers and Crusoe Gongbay; sophomores like Cole Gautsche, Carlos Wiggins and Marquis Bundy; freshmen like Dakota Cox, Teriyon Gipson and Nik D’Avanzo.
In February, they’ll be joined by members of coach Bob Davie’s third recruiting class.
So, when’s the payoff?
Many Lobo fans must be wondering, now that a 4-9 record in Davie’s first season has been followed by a 3-9 record this year, when or if there’s a payoff out there.
Again, UNM won only one Mountain West Conference game. In their final three games, ending with a 45-17 loss at Boise State on Saturday night, the Lobos were outscored 180-87.
Gongbay may not be an impartial observer, but he likes the potential.
The 6-foot, 210-pound running back is both a Mike Locksley recruit and a Davie recruit. After leading the team in rushing as a true freshman in 2011, brought to UNM by Locksley from Rockville, Md., he left the team the following spring. But after his plans to transfer fell through, he returned to Albuquerque with Davie’s blessing.
This season, principally as a backup to senior Kasey Carrier, Gongbay rushed for 592 yards with a 6.1-yard average per carry and scored six touchdowns. He led UNM against Boise State with 77 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
Gipson finished with 76 yards on 10 carries as UNM rushed for 300 yards, the most Boise State has given up on the ground this season.
Of next season, Gongbay said after Saturday’s game, “We’re gonna try our best on offense to keep getting better, keep grinding. … We just need to keep pushing.”
The next recruiting class, he said – not to mention several members of the 2013 class who sat out the season as redshirts – will “definitely make a difference. … They’ll push the guys in front of them to do even better.”
What, then, of a defense that allowed an average of 42.8 points per game this fall?
Jacori Greer, a senior defensive lineman, played his last college game at Boise. Of the defensive players who return, he believes, the lessons so painfully absorbed over the course of these 12 games will pay dividends.
Seven freshmen played on defense for UNM against Boise State. Two, Cox and D’Avanzo, started.
“That really is amazing,” Greer said. “You’re gonna lose games when that happens. … At the same time, what they’re able to gain, the experience this year for next year, that’s amazing.
“I can’t wait to see those guys play next year.”
TRUE GRIT: Davie was effusive in his praise of players who saw action and played well at Boise despite injuries.
Senior linebacker Rashad Rainey (torn labrum) had 1½ tackles for loss and was in on four stops overall. Senior Calvin McDowney (ankle sprain) and junior Jamal Price (labrum) shared time at right guard on an offensive line that paved the way for those 300 rushing yards.
Senior linebacker Dallas Bollema (back) was in on nine tackles. Senior center Dillon Farrell injured a knee but missed only one play. Gongbay had been termed questionable for the game with hip and knee injuries.
Senior tight end Andrew Aho, described by Davie as “beaten to a pulp,” made an impressive catch of a Mitchem pass for a 16-yard gain.
“I could just keep going,” Davie said. “These kids are unbelievable.”
GONE AGAIN: The Jackson twins, sophomore cornerbacks Rashad and Vershad, are no longer members of the team.
Greg Archuleta, media relations specialist for football, said UNM’s only comment is that the Jacksons are still enrolled in school but are not on the roster.
The story first was reported by KRQE-TV.
The Jacksons were dismissed from the team in August after an incident on the practice field in Ruidoso, then were reinstated 10 days later. The twins, from Missouri City, Texas, were redshirting this season after playing sparingly last season as freshmen.
They once again become the first scholarship players recruited by Davie to leave the program.
COMMITMENT: Steve Galvan, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker from Placentia, Calif., has committed to UNM. Galvan’s father, Carlos, confirmed his son’s commitment to the Orange County Register.
Such commitments are non-binding, pending the receipt by UNM of a signed letter of intent on Feb. 5.