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College Football: What will it take to win at UNM?

University of New Mexico quarterback Trae Hall (10) gets a little help getting into the end zone with a shove by teammate Teton Saltes. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Bob Davie woke up on Saturday as if it was any other gameday, only that it wasn’t.

He went through his personal workout, a must for him, especially on this day, his final as University of New Mexico’s football coach.

A couple hours before the Lobos’ game against Utah State, he spoke to the parents of the UNM seniors. Then, Davie, 65, coached his final game, ending an era of eight years that saw some highs and lows, most coming in the last three seasons.

“It hit me a little more than I thought,” Davie said of how he felt about coaching his final game. “It just seemed a little surreal to me. … It just seemed different than I what I thought it would.”

After the Lobos fell to Utah State 38-25, Davie talked about how he would not forget a game that had just approximately 1,200 in attendance.

Without being too specific, Davie delivered a parting shot, saying there needs to be alignment in order for a coach to succeed at UNM.

Someone asked him about the state of the Lobos’ football program, about how he was leaving it.

“I think that’s for you guys to decide and write about,” Davie said. “The next guy who inherits it, that’s what he is going to be paid to do, to figure that out. He can’t do it by himself.”

Obviously, the next chapter for the Lobos will be the new coach, who will take on a challenge to rebuild a team that has gone, 3-9, 3-9, 2-10 the past three seasons.

What’s it going to take for a coach to win at UNM?

Davie showed that it can happen with back-to-back New Mexico Bowl appearances and 16 wins in 2015 and 2016. Sustaining success is another matter.

Joe Dailey, UNM’s offensive coordinator, answered that question on Tuesday. He also said there must be alignment, from the university to the athletic department and to the football coach for all of it to work.

“The one part that is not always talked about is the community,” Dailey added. “They need to be involved in this too. This isn’t just University of New Mexico and whoever is here on gameday matters. No. If you’re alumni, if you’re in this state, if you’re in this city and you’re a fan, you have to be here supporting. A lot of these kids are not from New Mexico. These kids come from all over. Some of them their parents can’t get here. They need as much support as they can get. You’re sitting here on a Saturday with nothing better to do, you probably should be at the football stadium watching the game.”

Dailey, who signed a two-year contract in January, said that it was too early to talk about if he would apply for the UNM’s head coach opening. He was focused on the game at the time.

Teton Saltes, a redshirt junior offensive lineman, also talked about what it will take to win at UNM.

“We need more funding, the whole athletic department,” Saltes said. “If the state can appropriate more funding for UNM Athletics that would definitely help the situation. They need to invest more. At the end of the day we could bring in whoever we want as coach but if we don’t invest into the program and the kids here, it’s going to be hard to create significant and sustainable change.”

Saltes also said the recruitment of several junior college transfers is challenging for team chemistry.

“They are great players,” he said of the JUCO players. “But it’s really difficult to mesh players when they just come in and come out as opposed to four-year players who have been in the program.”

There were 44 junior college transfers on UNM’s roster this season.

Recruiting and developing players will be crucial for the Lobos’ next coach. Davie was not able to capitalize on the two winning seasons, which was the main part of his demise.

At the end of Davie’s postgame press conference someone asked him: how would you characterize your time with the Lobos?

“That’s for someone else to figure that out and write about that,” Davie said. “I probably see it through a different lens because I know exactly what it’s been. Someone else can look through their lens. Just judging won-loss record or judging on 2-10 this season. That’s fine, go ahead. I’m pretty comfortable and confident looking through my lens that I’m walking out of here with my head held high and I gave it all I had. I’m not going to apologize.”

UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez is expected to speak with the media this week to discuss the future of the UNM football program.

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