If there ever was a game film that cried out, “Burn me! Do not watch!” it would be that of the New Mexico Lobos’ 55-14 loss at Texas A&M on Saturday.
For Austin Ocasio, though, the A&M film was required viewing.
With two games left in his college football career, the desire to improve — and win — still burns.
“You’ve got to find the errors,” Ocasio, a senior linebacker, said after Monday’s practice. “You’ve got to find out what went wrong. You’ve got to find the mistakes people made.
“You’ve got to correct yourself. You’ve got to be able to look at yourself in the mirror.”
The well-traveled Ocasio — born in New York, attended high school in Florida, played junior college football in California — has done a lot of things right in a UNM uniform.
After sitting out the 2015 season as a redshirt, he’s made 68 tackles, with 5½ sacks and 10 tackles for loss thus far in his two seasons. After backing up Kimmie Carson at “will” inside linebacker last fall, he has started every game this season.
Because he so diligently watched the Texas A&M game film, Ocasio said, doesn’t mean he’s dwelling on the crushing defeat.
“You just have to move forward,” he said. “It’s in the past. You can’t change what happened.
“You can’t make progress if you keep looking back.”
Though he intercepted two passes last year, including one he returned 37 yards for a touchdown against San Jose State, Ocasio’s main responsibility as an inside linebacker is stopping the run. Opposing teams have averaged just 130 yards per game on the ground against the Lobos, ranking them 29th among 129 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
Texas A&M, which threw for 499 yards against UNM — 416 of those in a nightmarish first half — rushed for 63 yards and averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. Ocasio had three tackles, including a stop of Aggies running back Keith Ford for a 2-yard loss in the first quarter.
Did UNM’s success against the run make that game film any easier to watch?
Hardly, he said.
“I can’t take pride in anything (from the A&M game), honestly,” he said. “I don’t like losing.
“I wouldn’t care if I didn’t do anything, if I didn’t make any plays, none of that. I want to win.”
The Lobos, 3-7 on the season (1-5 in Mountain West Conference play) in a bitterly disappointing season, have two more chances to win — the first against UNLV Friday at Dreamstyle Stadium. It’s Senior Night for Ocasio and his fellow seniors.
“My family’s gonna be there, so that’s the big significance to me,” he said.
Ocasio is not overly sentimental about his time at UNM, but said, “I learned a lot of things, a lot of positive things here. I can say I matured here a little bit, learned how to take things as they are and accept things how they are.”
He’s on course to graduate in the spring with a degree in liberal arts with a business emphasis.
THE SENIOR CLASS: Though their final season has been disappointing, many of the 2017 seniors made major contributions to winning seasons the past two years.
“The senior class has a lot of pride and a lot invested,” coach Bob Davie said Monday during his weekly interview on KNML radio. “That’s what we’ve really talked about with these guys: ‘Don’t let go of the rope. You’ve invested a lot, you’ve built a lot.'”
INJURY UPDATE, ETC: Senior running back Richard McQuarley suffered a leg injury early in the Texas A&M game and will miss the UNLV game, Davie said.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tevaka Tuioti has a hamstring injury, Davie said. Fifth-year senior quarterback Lamar Jordan will start.
Davie is hoping to have junior free safety Stanley Barnwell Jr. back for Friday. Barnwell missed the Texas A&M game with a lower-leg injury.
Sophomore Willie Hobdy, who until recently was a cornerback, was pressed into service at free safety against the Aggies. Former Cleveland star Gabe Ortega, a redshirt freshman, also saw some action at free safety.
THE ODDS: UNM is rated as a one-point favorite against UNLV (4-6, 3-3) on some online sites. Others have the game as “pick ’em” (even).
UNLV at New Mexico
7:30 p.m. ESPN2, 770 AM, 94.5 FM