Lobo football hopes it's not in midst of a free fall - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo football hopes it’s not in midst of a free fall

University of New Mexico safety Stanley Bardwell Jr. walks off the field after losing to Utah State. The 3-6 Lobos try to turn around their momentum at Texas A&M. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)
(Click here for the Lobos-Aggies Game Day page.)

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The New Mexico Lobos’ best hope to spring a colossal upset Saturday night at Kyle Field, almost certainly, lies with the possibility that the Texas A&M Aggies are looking past them toward the two remaining Southeastern Conference games on their schedule.

Meanwhile, it seems, many Lobo fans and observers are looking past not only tonight’s game but past the rest of the 2017 season — wondering what lies ahead for the team and the program.

After two breakthrough seasons that produced 16 wins and consecutive bowl bids, the Lobos are 3-6 this fall, 1-5 in Mountain West Conference play. They’ve lost four straight games. They’re 17-point underdogs against A&M.

They’ll finish with a home game against UNLV (4-6, 3-3) on Friday and on the road at San Diego State (8-2, 4-2) on Nov. 24. The possibility of a seven-game, season-ending losing streak looms large, given that UNLV beat Fresno State by 10 points and Fresno State beat UNM by 38.

Tuesday, at his weekly news conference, sixth-year UNM coach Bob Davie noted that the history of the program weighs against the likelihood of extended periods of success.

“There’s gonna be dips,” he said. “There’s gonna be ebbs and flows. Let’s be honest, now. You’re not gonna win nine games every year at New Mexico.”

The concern, though, is that at UNM, dips tend to become chasms. Historically, pockets of success tend to be followed by longer periods of futility, more pronounced than the success.

A list:

1958–64: 48-23-1. 1965-69: 10-40.

1970-71: 13-6-2. 1972-74: 11-21-1.

1982-83: 16-7. 1984-92: 23-82.

1996-97: 15-9. 1998-2000: 12-23.

2001-07: 49-38. 2008-14: 18-67.

Put another way: Since 1965, UNM’s longest streak of consecutive winning seasons is three (2003-05). And since 1965, the program has had season-by-season losing streaks of five, nine and seven years.

Losing seasons, then, tend to be followed by losing seasons. The current season hasn’t fallen into that category yet, but Lobo Nation is hearing footsteps.

Certainly, no one on the UNM practice field has written off these last three games.

“I think we definitely have the talent,” senior center Blaise Fountain said. “We have a bunch of dudes that want to come out here and play. We just have to be more precise.

“The biggest word to put on this season is we’re lacking precision on a consistent basis, and that’s kind of been our downfall this year.”

Davie does not believe his painstakingly rebuilt program is in danger of falling off the edge. The two most glaring reasons for this season’s downturn — turnovers and spotty offensive line play — are things that, whether in the short term or long term, can be addressed.

“We have, I think, built a pretty strong foundation here,” he said.

Because of that foundation, Davie said this week that he doesn’t believe his program is fragile.

Yet, at the same time he admits it always will be — that New Mexico football will always play with a precarious margin of error. Even behind the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line, you don’t win committing 11 turnovers combined in consecutive games as the Lobos did in losses to Wyoming and Utah State.

The solution is simple, Davie said, if not easy.

“You have to solve it,” he said. “… Our goal is just to play the very best we can play. We do have some liabilities right now in certain areas, but we’ve got to raise up and somehow do the extra.

“It’s not gonna happen by some magical thing. … You have to go play the game.”

Saturday: New Mexico at Texas A&M, 5 p.m., ESPNU, 770 AM/94.5 FM

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