The forward pass, it seems, is back in fashion at Dreamstyle Stadium.
University of New Mexico football fans saw their hometown team put the ball Saturday night in the air with a frequency and success rate rarely seen in Bob Davie’s coaching tenure. Quarterback Tevaka Tuioti and the Lobos’ passing game effectively scorched visiting Incarnate Word in the first half of a 62-30 victory. UNM passed for more yards (294) in the first 30 minutes than it did in any entire game last season.
“That was a snapshot of the kind of explosiveness we have on this team,” Lobos coach Bob Davie said. “… We didn’t use everything on offense tonight. There’s more to the package, but a lot of ‘wow’ plays tonight.”
No one – with the possible exception of Tuioti – was more delighted with the explosive outing than members of the Lobos’ receiver corps.
Two prime examples were senior wideout Patrick Reed and sophomore tight end Marcus Williams. They combined to catch three passes against Incarnate Word, all three for touchdowns, and both more than doubled their career totals for receiving yards.
“It’s cool to get involved in the offense,” Williams said, “and not just be blocking like last year. It’s a lot more fun being involved. Everyone wants to score, but you also want to make sure your teammates score. A lot of guys scored tonight.”
Williams, who had just one catch for 27 yards last season, grabbed two passes for 43 yards and two TDs on Saturday. Reed, who came into the game with seven career receptions for 66 yards, snagged a 69-yard scoring pass in the first quarter.
New Mexico’s wideouts and tight ends have been a largely unappreciated bunch in recent seasons. Davie’s run-early, run-often offense often limited pass catchers to decoy and blocking responsibilities.
It Saturday’s opener was any indication, Lobo receivers might do a bit more receiving this year. Ten UNM players caught passes Saturday night for totals of 361 yards and five touchdowns. They hauled in seven passes of 30 yards or more, three fewer than Lobo receivers did all of last season.
“Our receivers did a phenomenal job of finding green grass,” Tuioti said. “All I had to do was find them.”
It’s probably not reasonable to read too much into UNM’s passing performance Saturday night. After all, the Lobos figured to roll up big numbers against Incarnate Word, and 300-yard passing nights are just par for the course for many college football teams.
“We know we can’t win games this way going forward,” Davie said. “We made some throws over the top tonight that are not going to be there – let’s be honest.”
But considering that the Lobos averaged 124 yards per game through the air last season – and considering that UNM still rushed effectively (66 carries for 319 yards) against the Cardinals – a big night through the air counts as significant.
If the Lobos and first-year offensive coordinator Calvin Magee can incorporate an effective passing attack, Davie’s preferred option running game could be that much harder to contain.
Playing receiver at the University of New Mexico could also be a lot more fun.
“Tonight was just a glimpse,” Williams said with smile. “There’s going to be a lot more to see.”