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Lobo RB Moran starting to find his niche on team

Lobos running back Kentrail Moran (24) made the most of his few carries last week against Colorado State, scoring two touchdowns.

Sometimes a bit of patience is needed for a running back during an offensive play when he gets the ball.

It allows for a block to be completed, a hole to open up, perhaps resulting in a big play.

Patience has also been key off the field for Kentrail Moran, the University of New Mexico’s redshirt sophomore who came to the Lobos as a highly touted running back from Illinois.

Bouts with regret, adversity and a season-ending knee injury have challenged Moran since he arrived in Albuquerque in 2016.

This season, Moran has put the past aside, grabbed coaches’ attention as a scout-team player and earned some carries. He took in three carries against Colorado State, two of them went for touchdowns, the first in his college career.

“I just knew all along after my injury (in 2018) I would get my shot to play again,” Moran said. “After going through that, I was going through a lot. It was devastating. I just wanted to play again. With me scoring those touchdowns, it was big, but I just feel like it’s another big step in us winning games. I just want to continue to help us try to win games.”

Moran might have to be patient again on Saturday when the Lobos (2-4, 0-2 in the Mountain West Conference) will try to end a three-game skid at Wyoming (4-2. 1-1). Moran received his opportunity last week because Ahmari Davis, UNM’s rushing leader this season, was out with back spasms. Bryson Carroll, who ran for 193 yards and two touchdowns, moved up as the starter and Moran spelled him a few times.

This week, Davis returns healthy and that might leave Moran out of the mix, but he says he’ll be ready regardless.

“Every chance I get I just go hard, even at practice, on the scout team or against the scout team,” Moran said. “I just go hard every time I touch the field or touch the ball or even block.”

UNM coach Bob Davie saw Moran’s toughness recently as a scout-squad player and told the 5-foot-9, 203-pound running back that he deserved to receive some carries in the game.

“It’s kind of a long story how he ended up coming here,” Davie said. “There have been times he probably thought about: Is this worth it? But he’s improving. I hope that the best is ahead for him because I really like him. He’s handled his business.”

Michigan, Louisville, Iowa, Indiana and Syracuse were among the programs that offered a scholarship to Moran, who said he chose the Fighting Illini because he wanted to stay home and build something special there. Moran de-committed from Illinois less than two weeks before signing day because he did not have a qualifying ACT or SAT score at the time, Moran’s high school football coach Brandon Joggerst told the Journal in May 2016.

When Moran gained his qualifying test score, the schools that had offered had filled their needs. Complicating matters was Illinois fired its coach, Tim Beckman.

Moran said he got a highlight video to Davie with the hopes of joining the Lobos after becoming the all-time career leader in yards rushing (3,569) and yards from scrimmage (4,105) at O’Fallon Township High School.

During his first year at UNM, Moran said he had thoughts of leaving as he still had a strong desire to play for a Big 10 program. He ended up redshirting his freshman season because he said it was in his best interest.

“In 2017, there were some good guys in front of me,” Moran said. “After that, in 2018 I got a medical redshirt (after a torn ACL). I’m here now, ready for this year.”

TUIOTI RESPONDS: Quarterback Tevaka Tuioti said on Wednesday his role is as a leader who will do whatever his team needs him to do and will try to execute at the highest level.

Tuioti was made available to the media after not speaking on Tuesday when Davie said the redshirt sophomore quarterback supported starter Sheriron Jones to stay in the game rather than warming up with the possibility of entering the game against Colorado State.

“Whatever Davie said is correct,” Tuioti said of what took place against the Rams. “But you know, the team always comes first, we reflect and for this week’s game we just have to learn from our mistakes that happened last week.”

It has been a challenging season for Tuioti, off the field as well. He missed the majority of preseason camp as he was in Long Beach, California with his family and his ill maternal grandfather, who eventually died. Tuioti’s paternal grandfather passed away on Sept. 13, the day the Lobos traveled to South Bend to play against Notre Dame.

Tuioti started the following week and threw for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Lobos to a 55-52 win over New Mexico State. He then struggled in the games at Liberty and at San Jose State.

“I just think with everything that has happened everyone is going to have their ups and downs, and it’s a matter of how you respond,” Tuioti said. “So right now it’s just being able to move on, look forward to the next opponent, learn from the mistakes and carry on.”

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