Through the first three games of an unprecedented and challenging season, the University of New Mexico football team has shown great improvement from last year and considerable development from week to week.
Yet the losses are still occurring.
The Lobos (0-3) suffered their 12 straight loss and 18th consecutive Mountain West Conference setback after losing 27-20 to Nevada (4-0) at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada on Saturday night.
“Our biggest opponent right now is the Lobos,” UNM first-year coach Danny Gonzales said during a virtual postgame press conference. “The Lobos beat the Lobos tonight. The Wolf Pack didn’t. We gave one away that I thought we had a chance to win.”
UNM showed its weakness, yet again, against the pass. Nevada quarterback Carson Strong threw for 336 yards and three touchdowns, all to wide receiver Romeo Doubs (5 catches, 172 yards). Yet the Lobos had opportunities to win the game. Actually, they were driving late in the game and had they scored to cut the lead to 27-26, first-year coach Danny Gonzales said he had the UNM offense prepared to go for two.
But the Lobos were plagued by two dropped passes in their final drive, one by wide receiver Jordan Kress and the other by wide receiver Emmanuel Logan-Greene. Each would have gone for a first down.
The Lobos opened the game with an aggressive defense and an opportunistic offense that capitalized on a trick play and an onside kick to jump out to a 10-0 lead.
After the game, Gonzales said he told the Lobos that they should not be content with nearly beating an undefeated team that was better than UNM.
“Getting close stinks,” Gonzales said. “I hate getting close. There are no moral victories. I don’t want them to feel like it’s OK that they competed with a good team. This one should hurt even more because we had an opportunity to win, we had several opportunities.”
Gonzales said he thought his team played with more aggression, the type of brand he wants them to use. And, not just on defense. On offense, running back Bobby Cole showed that with several violent runs. He led the Lobos with 90 yards rushing and one touchdown on 17 carries.
“I thought we were the more physical team,” Gonzales said. “I don’t think that was even close.”
The Lobos defense looked strong early in the game when the Wolf Pack tested UNM deep. The Lobos also created pressure on Strong. UNM defensive lineman Joey Noble recorded his second of two sacks in the game, taking down Strong on a 4th-and-6. Noble finished with a career-high 10 tackles.
After Noble’s sack, quarterback Trae Hall, who started with Tevaka Tuioti out after sustaining a concussion last week, then drove UNM 55 yards on 6 plays for a touchdown that he scored on a trick play.
Running back Bryson Carroll took a handoff from Hall and ran toward the sideline, where he threw a pass back to a wide-open Hall, who had blocking and a path into the end zone.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Lobos were successful on an onside kick. Donovan Murphree caught the Wolf Pack off guard with the onside kick and Syaire Riley recovered.
The Lobos drove for a 26-yard field goal. Jordan Kress keyed the drive with a 40-yard reception from Hall on a 3rd-and-8.
Late in the second quarter, Jerrick Reed stepped up with his third interception of the season. He picked off Strong, ending the Nevada quarterback’s streak of consecutive pass attempts without an interception at 299.
The Lobos then drove for another field goal that George Steinkamp drilled from 48 yards out for a 13-10 lead they carried into halftime.
However, the Wolf Pack scored 17 unanswered points in the second half, including touchdown scoring passes of 61 and 59 yards to Doubs.
New Mexico’s football team has been in Las Vegas since Nov. 2 to get out from under the restrictions and public health orders in Albuquerque. The Lobos are prepared to play out the season while in Las Vegas, Gonzales said. New Mexico will begin a shelter-in-place for two weeks starting on Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Friday.
UNM is scheduled to play at Air Force in Colorado Springs this Friday.