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New Mexico’s football team dropped to 1-1 after a 45-14 loss to then-No. 5 Wisconsin on Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium.
But, to UNM coach Bob Davie, his Lobos might as well be 0-0.
“This was a great experience for us,” Davie said after the loss to the Badgers, now ranked No. 6. “In a lot of ways our season starts next week for us. We had Incarnate Word. Most people thought we would win. Then we have Wisconsin and most people thought we would lose. Now we start into the meat of our schedule. (Sheriron) Jones will probably be our quarterback. At least we have a week to prepare him.”
The Lobos left Madison with their first loss of the season, but they saw improvements in many areas, including the defense that caused a couple of big turnovers, courtesy of safety Marcus Hayes and linebacker Evahelotu Tohi.
Overall, that Lobo defense was worn down as Heiman hopeful running back Jonathan Taylor bounced back from a fumble to rush for a career-high 253 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries.
Now the Lobos turn their attention to their rivalry game at New Mexico State on Saturday at 6 p.m.
“We leave here disappointed because I know we could have played better,” Davie said Saturday. “But in the end we are who we are and they are who they are. It was neat to come up here and see what a Big Ten experience is. I don’t take this for granted. This is a heckuva setting, heckuva an environment and heckuva team we got to compete against. We don’t leave here downtrodden. But we don’t leave here happy because we could’ve played better. Now it’s all about NMSU.”
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Tevaka Tuioti reminded everyone that he is a playmaker at quarterback for the Lobos and, in reality, their best player. He was sensational during the Lobos’ opening drive and showed that the moment wasn’t too big for him, as he directed UNM on a 17-play, 87-yard drive that he ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson. Tuioti converted two big passes on third down, including the TD to Hart-Johnson.
Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst gave UNM a lot of credit for the way the Lobos came out in their opening drive. However, Chryst liked the way his team responded.
The Lobos also showed they are plenty capable of coming up with the big play on defense.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Tuioti suffered a head injury late in the first quarter, most likely his head hitting the turf after he was knocked by the Wisconsin defense on an option pitch, Davie said. Now the Lobos are preparing to be without him against the Aggies. UNM will have an update on Tuioti’s status either today or Tuesday.
Jones called Saturday’s loss a learning experience. It was also disappointing because he threw two interceptions and lost a fumble on a quarterback sneak in the second half, when the Badgers outscored the Lobos, 35-7. If Jones gets the starting nod, which will most likely be the case, he will have to take better care of the ball.
NOTABLES: During the loss, UNM showed it is a different team than last year, and not just because of the new, and exciting, offense it is using. Simply put, the Lobos have improved and they are playing with more fire than the team that finished last season with a seven-game losing streak.
Jones dealt with a hamstring issue last month and it cost him the ability to compete for the starting job that Tuioti won. Davie said he notices that Jones is a bit hesitant because of the hamstring and isn’t 100 percent. Jones says he is fine.
NEXT OPPONENT: New Mexico State remains in search of its first win of the season as the Aggies fell to 0-3 after losing at Utah State, 60-13, on Saturday.
HE SAID IT: “What a great opportunity to come up here to Madison, Wisconsin, for our players to be able to experience this atmosphere. Impressive place and impressive football team we played against.” – Davie.
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