Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal
Game week for the 2019 Rio Grande Rivalry has been meaningful in more ways than one for University of New Mexico defensive coordinator Jordan Peterson.
It all centers around family for Peterson, the one at work and the one at home.
First, the football team family: Peterson is expecting a young Lobo defense to take another step in improvement as it takes on New Mew Mexico State on Saturday at Dreamstyle Stadium.
Peterson saw some progress from the Lobos (1-1), who came out strong against No. 7 Notre Dame. But they did not sustain their high level of play in a 66-14 loss, and Peterson saw plenty of other mistakes that must be corrected against the Aggies (0-3).
“One thing I saw was tackling. We have to do a better job of tackling in space,” Peterson said. “No. 2: We need to eliminate mistakes that give them big plays. We can’t give them anything. You have to make them earn it.”
Peterson’s wife, Missy, is pregnant with their third child and the expected due date is Thursday. With the Lobos leaving for Virginia on Friday for their game next week at Liberty, Peterson said doctors will induce labor before then so that he can be home to see his newborn third daughter.
The Aggies, meanwhile, will look to flip the script on their early-season struggles at No. 23 Washington State and No. 2 Alabama to go with a 31-10 defeat in their home opener last week against San Diego State.
“It all starts this Saturday for both teams,” UNM coach Bob Davie said. “That’s why it’s such a big game. It’s such a big indicator. It’s such a crystal ball of what is yet to come for our team and to some degree for New Mexico State. It’s a huge game.”
Aggies coach Doug Martin echoed Davie’s sentiments.
“If you look back at our history, the years we win the UNM game, things tend to go pretty well,” Martin said. “The years we beat UNM and UTEP always go well, so yeah, this one’s really important.”
Davie said he will be watching the game from home as he continues to recover from “a serious medical condition” that occurred following the Lobos’ season-opening win against Sam Houston State on Aug. 31. He’s on schedule to return as head coach in full capacity next week.
Saga Tuitele, UNM’s offensive line coach and run-game coordinator, will be the acting head coach for the second straight game. He said the Lobos had “very spirited and physical practices” on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Lobos, 4½-point favorites Saturday, will have a “new” starting quarterback in redshirt sophomore Tevaka Tuioti, who won the starting job last year, but suffered a season-ending shoulder injury against Liberty on Sept. 29.
He actually missed the game against New Mexico State last year because of a concussion.
The Aggies say they have studied and prepared for all three of the UNM quarterbacks who played at Notre Dame, including Sheriron Jones, who started last season’s 42-24 Lobo win in Las Cruces.
“Their three quarterbacks are different,” NMSU lineman Cedric Wilcots II said, “but their offense doesn’t change too much when they change QBs. We just have to know their tendencies and be prepared for all three.”