Not a single player remains on the University of New Mexico roster who took a single snap the last time the Lobos played a game at Fresno State.
That, UNM coach Bob Davie said, is probably just as well. Having been there that day, he’d as soon forget.
And yet, the 69-28 shellacking the Lobos absorbed that late November afternoon ever after will remain a significant bench mark in the development of Davie’s program.
That was as bad as it got.
Since then, it has only gotten better.
When Davie was hired at UNM in November 2011, he looked at the roster and knew the 2012 season would be difficult.
He knew 2013 could be worse.
Roster attrition from the Mike Locksley era, certainly a problem in 2012, truly came home to roost the following year. Of the 61 players signed by Locksley from 2009-11, fewer than 20 remained. Davie had signed only two recruiting classes of his own, too few to reconstruct the roster on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve talked a lot about that first year, but there were actually some holdover guys,” Davie recalled after a practice this week as the Lobos prepared for their first game at Fresno State since 2013. “Even though we were really thin, there were some older guys.
“Then after that first year and at the end of the second year, it was brutal.”
Defense, in particular, was a problem. The Lobos had become a threat offensively from the very start of the Davie era, thanks to their triple-option attack, but there was no defensive equivalent.
By the time the Lobos limped into Fresno with a 3-7 record, injuries had further depleted the roster. The previous week, UNM had given up 649 yards in total offense to Colorado State in a 66-42 home loss.
The Rams were good that year, but Fresno State — quarterbacked by Derek Carr, who now (when healthy) plays for the Oakland Raiders — was better. Much better.
And of his Lobos, Davie said, “There wasn’t much meat left on the bone.”
It was Senior Day in Fresno, and the Bulldogs (9-0 overall at the time, 6-0 in Mountain West Conference play) were more fired up for a game against an outmanned opponent than they otherwise might have been.
The Lobos got the ball first and were forced to punt. Five plays later, Carr hit Davante Adams — yes, the Green Bay Packers wide receiver and Dallas Cowboy nemesis — for a 58-yard touchdown.
So the slaughter began.
“They were on fire,” Davie said.
By game’s end, Carr & Co. had amassed 822 yards total offense, the most ever allowed by a New Mexico team. Carr was 27-of-37 passing for 522 yards and seven touchdowns. Adams caught nine passes for 246 yards and four TDs.
The miracle, perhaps, is how the Bulldogs managed to score only 69 points. But it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Up 21-0 in the second quarter, on a second down-and-1 play from the New Mexico 26-yard line, the Bulldogs ran a “fumblerooskie” trick play. Carr took the center snap and laid the ball on the ground. Wide receiver Isaiah Burse, having hidden behind the right guard, picked the ball up and ran untouched for a touchdown.
Now, was that necessary? Obviously not. But Davie said he holds no grudges and considers Tim DeRuyter, Fresno State’s head coach at the time, a friend.
And DeRuyter did pull Carr after three quarters, with the Bulldogs leading 63-21.
All in all, Davie said, “That was a tough day.”
There were better days to come, though the process took time.
After dropping the 2013 season finale, 45-17 at Boise State, the Lobos went 4-8 in 2014. But the past two seasons, they’ve gone 7-6 and 9-4, with New Mexico Bowl appearances each season and a bowl victory over UTSA last December.
They’re 3-2 overall, 1-1 in Mountain West play, entering Saturday’s game at Fresno State (3-2, 2-0), rejuvenated after going 10-28 the past three years. DeRuyter was fired last November and was replaced by former California coach Jeff Tedford.
Of Nov. 23, 2013, Davie said, “It was a dismal day. But when you think about how far we’ve come since then, we’ve come a long way.”