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Tuioti rallies to win Lobo starting QB position

UNM quarterback Tevaka Tuioti has regained his starting position, coach Danny Gonzales said Tuesday. The Lobos open the 2020 season Oct. 24 at Colorado State. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Tevaka Tuioti, a 6-foot-2, 194-pound redshirt junior quarterback, has been named the University of New Mexico starter for the Oct. 24 opener at Colorado State, coach Danny Gonzales said Tuesday after practice.

Gonzales went with Tuioti over 6-2, 188-pound redshirt sophomore Trae Hall because Tuioti responded well after he was demoted to No. 2 during the spring for being two minutes late for a team treatment appointment. Tuioti, 22, started seven games last year when UNM went 2-10, has more experience and Tuioti outplayed Hall over the past two weeks, Gonzales said.

“I think the competition has been great,” Gonzales said. “We’re going to run with Tevaka. We’ll have some packages for Trae Hall. Trae knows he’s only one play away from playing. I’m excited with the direction we’re going. We have a voice.”

Tuioti has had two redshirt years, including a medical redshirt he received in 2018 when he started three games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury against Liberty.

Last year, coincidentally against Colorado State, Tuioti passed on the opportunity to relieve Sheriron Jones when the Lobos went down by two touchdowns in the third quarter. Tuioti was supporting Jones and wanted Jones to continue to play, then-coach Bob Davie said. Tuioti did not comment other than to say that whatever Davie said is what took place.

Gonzales acknowledged that his first perception of Tuioti was that he was “soft” but has changed his mind.

“He’s the complete opposite of that,” Gonzales said during a virtual press conference Tuesday. “… He was in the situation where a guy who has played a bunch of football and was going to be the presumed starter could have thrown in the towel and said, ‘These guys stink and I deserve better.’ Well, I don’t think anyone deserves anything. You earn what you get. He was put in a situation where he had to fight his way back to the top.”

Tuioti will be made available to the media Wednesday. He threw for 1,460 yards on 102-of-195 passing with seven touchdowns and six interceptions last year, and impressed Gonzales with his leadership and maturity. Even though Tuioti was competing with Hall for the starting job, he offered Hall pointers.

Hall has had one start — last year’s season finale against Utah State, when he led the team in rushing with 115 yards on 22 carries and two touchdowns. He also threw two touchdown passes, completing 10 of 21 passes for 107 yards and two interceptions in UNM’s 38-25 loss.

“Trae Hall is very talented,” Gonzales said. “He knows that Tevaka probably got the better of him the last two weeks.”

Gonzales said the Lobos will need to be inventive if Tuioti and Hall aren’t able to play.

Connor Genal, a 6-5, 213-pound redshirt freshman, and Isaiah Chavez, a 6-foot, 191-pound freshman from Rio Rancho High, have been splitting snaps as the No. 3 quarterback.

SCHEDULE: The Mountain West announced its national television package for the 2020 season Tuesday, thus setting times for some Lobo games.

  • UNM at Colorado State (7 p.m. on Fox Sports 2)
  • Air Force at UNM (Nov. 20 , 7:30 p.m., Fox Sports 1)
  •  Wyoming at UNM (Dec. 5, 5 p.m., CBS Sports Network)

Times are to be determined for UNM’s other games.

UNM’s home opener against San Jose State on Halloween; the Lobos’ home game against Nevada on Nov. 14; and their home game against Fresno State on Dec. 12 will be on Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports 2.

The Lobos are scheduled to play at Utah State on Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, on Fox Sports 1.

OUT: Donte Martin, a 5-10, 179-pound redshirt sophomore who started all 12 games at cornerback last year, will miss the first two games this season due to academic reasons, Gonzales said.

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