SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Javohn Jones charged out of the visiting team’s tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium waving the New Mexico state flag as he led the UNM football team onto the field.
It was the beginning of a special day for Jones, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound senior running back and alumnus of La Cueva High, who earned his first start.
Afterward, Jones could smile a bit even though the Lobos suffered a 66-14 loss to the No 7-ranked Fighting Irish on Saturday.
He said he had an idea that he would start, but it was confirmed about an hour before the game began.
— New Mexico Football (@UNMLoboFB) September 15, 2019
“It was just really overwhelming,” Jones said. “I felt truly blessed that my coaches had faith in me to be out there and get my first start on this big of a stage. I had family out here watching, so that meant a lot. My dad couldn’t make it, so I felt that this was really for my dad.”
Jones delivered some strong runs in the first quarter. He ran for 15 yards on five carries with his longest rush going for 11 yards.
That proved to show the improvement he has made throughout his time at UNM. He made considerable progress within the past year and earned a scholarship before the Lobos’ preseason camp.
It was an easy answer for Jones when he was asked which was a greater achievement: earning the scholarship or making the start at South Bend?
“I would say earning the scholarship is higher because I put a lot more time into that,” Jones said.
But starting for the Lobos against the Fighting Irish was pretty special too, as well as leading the team in with the state flag before the game.
Jones said he had never been around that many fans, a sellout crowd of 77,622.
“I had my fellow running backs cheering me on,” Jones said. “I was just really excited to get out there to show what I could do.”
Jones contributed to UNM’s run game that proved to be one of the few bright spots for the Lobos. They rushed for 212 yards with Bryson Carroll leading the way.
Carroll finished with 69 yards on six carries, including a 47-yard touchdown run late in the second quarter.
Bobby Cole also scored on a 37-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“It was nice to see some guys make plays,” Jones said.
The Lobos will attempt to build off their rushing performance as they prepare for rival New Mexico State next week at Dreamstyle Stadium.
It’s been a whirlwind of a start to the season for the 1-1 Lobos. They opened the season with a 39-31 victory over Sam Houston State that quickly shifted to thoughts and concern for their coach Bob Davie, who experienced a health scare.
Davie, a former Notre Dame head coach, did not make the trip to South Bend because of doctors’ advice. That will also determine his status for this coming week.
“We can’t dwell on the loss (to Notre Dame),” Jones said.
“I think playing on this stage and playing a team of that caliber is really going to help us. I feel like now we should be locked into New Mexico State. We just have to get our minds off this and I do feel like it could make us better.”
UP NEXT: The concern for Notre Dame was that the Irish would look past the Lobos with the showdown coming next against No. 3 Georgia in Athens.
Now that they took care of business Saturday in their home opener, it can be all Georgia, all the time.
“To come in here and get the win that we wanted felt really good,” said Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book, who threw five touchdown passes. “We’ll enjoy it tonight and once tomorrow hits it’s Georgia week and everyone knows that.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly couldn’t agree more.
“To get this game under our belts going into Georgia was really big for us,” Kelly said.
UNM, meanwhile, awaits a game this coming Saturday with rival New Mexico State, now 0-3 after a 31-10 loss in its home opener to San Diego State.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.