Defending a team like Air Force with its triple-option offense can be the difference between clean eyes and dirty eyes, University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales says.
No, this isn’t a knock-off of Friday Night Lights’ fictional coach Eric Taylor saying, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.” It’s about clean eyes: knowing your assignment, shedding blocks and not losing sight of who actually is carrying the ball.
Dirty eyes are the opposite and could be worse: Ending up on the ground with a divot of grass in the face mask.
“If you get dirty eyes, (your weakness) gets exploited and can be even worse if you don’t do your job,” Gonzales said of UNM (0-3) facing Air Force (1-2) on Friday night. “Last year Air Force was 9-for-10 for 327 yards passing. So, if you don’t concentrate, it can happen quick. Your eyes have to be as clean as can be to give yourself a chance to be successful.”
Last year, Falcons quarterback Donald Hammond III compiled those passing numbers, which included four touchdown passes in the second half of a 44-22 win over UNM. Hammond is no longer with the team after entering the transfer portal, but Gonzales knows Air Force remains dangerous.
The Lobos, who have lost 12 straight, must be aggressive and attack, Gonzales said.
“We do what we do,” he said. “We’re not a read-and-react team. There are some teams that line up in 4-3 and they try to react off stuff. That’s not us. We try to force the action to the opponent. We’ll continue to be aggressive. … If we sit back and wait for them and try to react, they’ll eat us alive.”
On offense, Trae Hall might start again at quarterback because Tevaka Tuioti hasn’t been cleared after sustaining a concussion late in the game against Hawaii on Nov. 7, Gonzales said earlier in the week. Tuioti will be a game-day decision, Gonzales said Thursday.
If Hall starts, Connor Genal would be the backup and Isaiah Chavez, a freshman out of Rio Rancho High, would be the No. 3. The Lobos will have designed run plays for Hall.
UNM linebacker Dion Hunter, a freshman from Cleveland High, suffered a lower-leg injury late in last week’s game against Nevada. He practiced this week, and Gonzales is hoping Hunter is cleared to play Friday.