Sure, there was hardly any defense. But oh, was there offense.
Tevaka Tuioti, the University of New Mexico’s dynamic quarterback, led the Lobos to a wild 55-52 win over New Mexico State on Saturday afternoon at Dreamstyle Stadium.
In his first start of the season, he had a career-high 355 yards passing and three touchdown passes in front of an announced crowd of 27,269.
In the second highest-scoring game of the Rio Grande Rivalry series — the teams’ 107 total points is the most since 1917 when the teams combined for 113 — New Mexico State quarterback Josh Adkins also had a big day. He led the Aggies with 335 yards passing with three touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns.
Tuioti did his best to answer questions quickly during a postgame interview.
He had just played the game of his life and needed to catch a flight to Los Angeles to be with his family. They are mourning the death of Tuioti’s paternal grandfather, who passed away last Friday.
His maternal grandfather died last month, causing him to miss the majority of preseason camp and get behind in the competition to be the Lobos’ quarterback.
And, along the way, he had to listen to the critics who were saying the quarterback had never beaten a Football Bowl Subdivision team.
So what does Tuioti do amid all the adversity and critiques?
“I just put my head down, be humble and grind,” he said.
Tuioti was 16 for 28 through the air with one interception late that gave the Aggies life. He also rushed for 49 yards.
“Football was always my getaway,” said Tuioti, a redshirt sophomore who won the starting job last year, suffered a season-ending injury in September 2018 and then endured more tumult this past August. “I always use (football), if I have something on my chest, to get it off.”
Tuioti made big plays, hooking up with wide receivers Jordan Kress (three catches, 122 yards, two touchdowns), Anselem Umeh (three catches, 42 yards), Elijah Lilly (three for 38) and tight end Marcus Williams (two for 73).
Umeh’s final catch proved to be the biggest with the Lobos (2-1) protecting a 55-52 lead facing third-and-15 with under 3 minutes left.
Umeh made a big catch, but came up just short of the first down.
The Lobos went for it on 4th-and-1.
UNM acting coach Saga Tuitele said that’s what coach Bob Davie would have wanted, to go for it on fourth down.
Tuitele also said the win was for Davie, who missed his second game since recovering from a “serious medical condition” following the season opener on Aug. 31.
A hurdling Ahmari Davis picked up the first down and more. He also ran more clock and another 11 yards later in the drive, holding onto the ball in the midst of a pile that pushed him forward.
He said he wanted to run like “Beast Mode,” one of his favorite rushers, Marshawn Lynch, from his hometown of Oakland, Calif.
Davis also contributed a career-high performance with 133 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. His effort capped an epic game that had back-and-forth action.
Adkins did make a mistake early that cost the Aggies. His interception to New Mexico defensive back Jerrick Reed II, who took it back 43 yards for the TD, gave the Lobos a 7-0 lead 39 seconds into the contest.
Jason Huntley led NMSU (0-4) with 114 yards rushing and one TD on 12 carries.
When Daevon Vigilant scored on a 1-yard touchdown to put the Lobos up 55-38 with 10:26 left in the game, it appeared UNM was going to coast to its second straight win in the rivalry.
But the Aggies responded with a quick scoring drive that ended with Huntley scoring on a 4-yard reception from Adkins.
NMSU defensive back Austin Perkins then intercepted Tuioti’s pass to help set up the Aggies’ next touchdown, an Adkins 4-yard run with 5:22 left.
Tuioti then directed the drive to seal the win. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Tuioti was grateful.
“I just looked up to the sky and I thanked the man above,” he said.
Below: Postgame interview with UNM quarterback Tevaka Tuioti
Below: Postgame interview with UNM running back Ahmari Davis
Below: Postgame interview with UNM defensive back Jerrick Reed II
Below: Postgame interview with UNM receiver Jordan Kress