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Lobo football team gets right to work in Las Vegas

University of New Mexico football coach Danny Gonzales didn’t waste any time upon arriving in Las Vegas, Nevada on Monday evening.

He put the Lobos to practice that night.

UNM had not had a full-team, full-contact practice since Oct. 14. The Lobos had practiced fully for only 10 days until they paused activities after eight players tested positive for the coronavirus. Then, COVID-19 positive case numbers intensified in Bernalillo County and they never returned to full practices, live scrimmages, or full contact. Until Monday night.

After losing its season opener at San Jose State, 38-21, on Saturday, the Lobos returned to Albuquerque and left again by buses for Las Vegas on Monday after being tested for COVID-19 on Sunday morning. They left because they cannot practice in Albuquerque. The positive case numbers have not lowered and the Lobos were required to quarantine after playing football in California. Off they went to Las Vegas to prepare for Saturday’s game at Hawaii.

Gonzales said they waited for the results — all negative — before leaving. When they arrived at their hotel, which is near their practice home Sam Boyd Stadium for this week and maybe longer, they settled in, had a meal (one burger each from In-N-Out, Gonzales said), and met as a team.

Gonzales told them the itinerary for the week, which included going to Sam Boyd for a late night practice on Monday.

They started practice around 9 p.m. and didn’t get done until 11.

Gonzales described it as a “very physical practice.”

“It was fun,” Gonzales said. “They got into it. We had a full scout team. We practiced Hawaii plays. The energy was good because they were together.”

HELP ON THE WAY: Against SJSU, the Lobos were without projected starters and defensive backs Nico Bolden (6-foot-3, 207 pounds, redshirt junior), Michael LoVett (6-0, 185, Sr.), Tony Collier (5-11, 170, Sr.) and Donte Martin (5-10, 179, redshirt soph.).

Bolden, UNM’s Lobo back in the 3-3-5 defense, and cornerbacks Collier and LoVett missed the game because they were either in quarantine or isolation, Gonzales said. He would not provide specifics, only “quarantine/isolation.”

Players who test positive are required for isolation, while players who are identified in contact tracing are required for quarantine.

Collier and LoVett practiced Monday night. Bolden was expected to practice Tuesday.

Martin is academically ineligible for the first two games and UNM is asking for a ruling to see if the Colorado State game that was canceled could be counted, so he would be available Saturday.

Nate Jones, a 5-11, 205-pound freshman running back out of St. John Bosco in Bellflower, California, is also expected to play Saturday after missing the game against SJSU. He was also in either quarantine or isolation.

Frank Mercogliano, UNM’s assistant athletic director of communications, traveled by car to Las Vegas on Tuesday afternoon, driving a “group” of players with him that had also been in quarantine or isolation, Gonzales said.

Those players will not compete Saturday but will help with preparation.

PRIZED BOOT: UNM punter Tyson Dyer was among a group of four who shared National Punter of the Week honors as announced by the Ray Guy Award.

Dyer punted six times Saturday, averaging 44.8 yards and allowing one return for zero yards. He pinned San Jose State inside the 20 five times and inside the 10 twice.

Last season, Dyer led the nation in punter pin percentage (the percentage of punts inside the 20) at 59%. He was also a Ray Guy Award semifinalist last season.

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