New Mexico’s football team has added a game at Mississippi State to its 2020 schedule, as well as a two-game contract with Massachusetts, the UNM program announced Friday.
The Lobos will receive $1 million as part of the contract with Mississippi State, but UNM will pay a hefty price — with three consecutive road games in September 2020.
UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez is OK with that, because the Lobos were able to move their schedule around to make room for the Bulldogs. That also led to the nonconference home game against UMass, which is what Nuñez also wanted when agreeing to play at Mississippi State.
“We have to find the best opportunities for us,” Nuñez said, “and then deal with the circumstances at hand.”
The Lobos have moved their 2020 season opener with Idaho State from Sept. 5 to Week Zero, Aug. 29, to make room for the game against Mississippi State.
Nuñez said he was grateful that Idaho State, Mississippi State and UMass were able to provide available dates. The Lobos had some schedule flexibility in 2020, Nuñez said, because they are playing a league game that season at Hawaii. That allows teams to schedule a 13th game and also to start in Week Zero — the week before the official start to the season — per NCAA rules.
After UNM’s Sept, 5, 2020, game at Mississippi State in Starkville, the Lobos will play Southern Cal in Los Angeles the following week. UNM is receiving $950,000 to play in that game.
Nuñez acknowledged that playing back-to-back Power 5 opponents on the road presents a huge challenge. The final of the three straight road games has the Lobos in Las Cruces against New Mexico State.
The Lobos’ buy-game announcement comes on the heels of a disappointing season — not just on the field, 3-9, 1-7 in the Mountain West Conference — but also with regard to home game ticket sales. UNM sold $881,095 in home ticket sales, more than 25 percent off the mark the Lobos projected ($1.2 million) and 42.7 percent lower than what was made ($1.5 million) in 2017, the Journal reported this week.
Mississippi State went 8-3 in 2018 under the direction of first-year head coach Joe Moorhead. The Bulldogs have played in nine straight bowl games, going 6-3, including a 27-22 loss to Iowa in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1.
The Lobos’ game against the Bulldogs will be played in Wade Davis Stadium, which holds 61,337, and was constructed in 1914, making it the second-oldest FBS stadium in the nation.
UNM will host UMass on Oct. 3, 2020, when the Lobos will be coming off a bye week. As part of that contract, the Lobos play at UMass on Sept. 23, 2023.
UMass enters a new era in 2019 with new head coach Walt Bell, who served most recently as the offensive coordinator for Florida State. UMass currently plays as an FBS independent.
Future nonconference football games lined up by UNM:
Aug. 31 Sam Houston State
Sept. 14 at Notre Dame
Sept. 21 New Mexico State
Sept. 28 at Liberty
Aug. 29 Idaho State
Sept. 5 at Mississippi State
Sept. 12 at USC
Sept. 19 at New Mexico State
Sept. 4 Houston Baptist
Sept. 11 New Mexico State
Sept. 18 at Texas A&M
Sept. 25 at UTEP
Sept. 10 at LSU
Sept. 17 at New Mexico State
Sept. 2 at Texas A&M
Sept. 2 at UMass
Sept. 13 at UCLA