LARAMIE, Wyo. – Patience led to the University of New Mexico’s lone touchdown of the game in a 23-10 loss to Wyoming at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
Patience wasn’t needed during the play, but was a factor before wide receiver Aaron Molina made a sensational one-handed grab late in the fourth quarter.
Molina had been waiting for the ball to be thrown his way. He has become a bit of a specialist on 50-50 balls or back-shoulder throws. Saturday, he boxed out his defender and caught the throw from quarterback Tevaka Tuioti with a defender draped all over him.
“I appreciate (Molina) being patient,” UNM coach Bob Davie said “We’ve had several times the decision should have been to throw the ball to Molina on the fade and we went the other way on a QB read, which is a misread.”
The Lobos (2-5, 0-3 in Mountain West Conference play) showed the ability to move the ball against the Cowboys (5-2, 2-1), but they could not finish off drives with points.
New Mexico had eight straight drives that went into Wyoming territory, but the Lobos could only muster 10 points.
They probably could’ve used a couple of more big plays from Molina and Tuioti. Jordan Kress did provide some catches on deep balls, finishing with 94 yards on four catches.
“With those opportunities that I get I want to help the offense as much as I can,” said Molina, a 6-foot-3, 200-pound redshirt senior who played at Valley High. “The execution just wasn’t there for this game. We just have to keep working.”
The Cowboys were playing one-on-one on some of the UNM receivers during the second half, Davie said. The Tuioti-to-Molina TD connection was the type of play that left a question: why didn’t Davie go to his redshirt sophomore quarterback earlier in the game?
Davie said he wanted to give starter Sheriron Jones more opportunities in the second half.
“(Tuioti) does bring that spark,” Molina said. “He makes (the offense) a little better. Throws the ball a little better. I think our package at quarterback was playing well, but it just comes down to execution.”
WHAT WENT RIGHT?: Outside linebacker Jacobi Hearn, a transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, continues to shine on a defense that has struggled for the majority of the season.
The UNM defense stepped up against Wyoming, and so did Hearn, who produced eight tackles, two sacks and two tackles for losses.
Davie pointed out the efforts of safeties Nico Bolden and Johnny Hernandez.
Hernandez, who played despite an ankle injury, led the Lobos with 11 tackles, six unassisted.
Bolden moved into action because safety Jerrick Reed II was out with a knee injury. Bolden finished with eight tackles, five unassisted.
WHAT WENT WRONG?: The UNM defense might have pitched a shutout in the first half had not been for running back Bryson Carroll’s crucial fumble at the Lobos’ 37-yard line that gave the Cowboys a short field and an eventual touchdown.
In the third quarter, Wyoming grabbed momentum from stuffing UNM running back Ahmari Davis on a 4th-and-3 from the Cowboys’ 29-yard line and drove down the field to take a 13-0 lead.
The Lobos began the second half with a promising drive that started with Jones’ 25-yard pass to Kress. Jones also found wide receiver Emmanuel Logan-Greene with a pass good for 10 yards.
NOTABLE: Hawaii’s promising season took another hit with the Rainbow Warriors’ second straight loss on Saturday, when Air Force grabbed a 56-26 win in Hawaii.
Still, the Rainbow Warriors (4-3, 1-2) remain on track to become bowl eligible. They’ll try to get back in the win column at New Mexico on Saturday in the Lobos’ homecoming game at 2 p.m.
HE SAID IT: “It’s really going to come down to each individual player to dig in and not want to give up. Our coaches want the best for us, too. Coach Davie was talking about how he doesn’t want us to start thinking we’re not a good team. It’s just comes down to each player just locking it down, really just soul searching and finding a purpose.”
– Linebacker Alex “Mo” Vainikolo on what it’s going to take for the Lobos to stop their four-game losing streak.