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Gonzales: Lobos got their ‘tail whooped’ Friday at Air Force

New Mexico quarterback Trae Hall (10) passes in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, at Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

After losing for the fourth straight time this season and for the 13th consecutive time dating back to last season, University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales didn’t call out his players so much.

He instead placed the blame on himself and his coaching staff after the Lobos (0-4) lost to Air Force 28-0 in Colorado Springs on Friday night.

“I apologized to my team because we did a terrible job of coaching them,” Gonzales said in a virtual postgame press conference. “We’re not that bad of a football team. But when you perform that bad it’s not on them. It’s on the coaches. I gotta do a better job of getting our staff to prepare them better.”

Gonzales said Air Force (2-2) was the tougher team. That led to UNM’s first shutout since 2017 when the Lobos lost to Fresno State, 38-0.

The Lobos’ 13-game losing streak is the second longest in the country. UNM also extended its losing streak in the Mountain West Conference to 19 games. That is the nation’s longest current conference losing streak.

“We didn’t give them a good plan in the first half,” Gonzales said. “The speed is way faster than what you can prepare for.”

Air Force rushed for 356 yards to help give coach Troy Calhoun his 100th career win, all with Air Force. Brad Roberts led Air Force with 177 yards and three touchdowns on 28 carries.

The Lobos struggled to finish drives on offense. Gonzales was disappointed with three missed field-goal attempts and one kick that was blocked.

UNM, playing without starting quarterback Tevaka Tuioti for the second straight game, moved the ball past midfield nine times, including seven straight and all six of the second half.

Tuioti did not gain clearance for the game after sustaining a concussion late in the 39-33 loss at Hawaii on Nov. 7. Trae Hall started at quarterback for the second straight week.

Gonzales said he anticipates Tuioti to be able to play Thursday at Utah State.

The Lobos’ starting kicker will be re-assessed, Gonzales said. George Steinkamp, who missed two field goals and had one blocked, has been the kicker. Andrew Shelley, UNM’s kicker last year, missed one field goal. The two will compete for the job this week, Gonzales said.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Lobos showed plenty of fight in the second half, mainly on defense. The UNM defense forced and recovered three fumbles in the second half and also stuffed the Falcons on a fourth down in the fourth quarter inside the 5-yard line.

UNM redshirt senior middle linebacker Brandon Shook recorded a career-high 19 tackles. It was the most tackles in a game by a Lobo since Sept 26, 2014, when Dakota Cox had 19. Shook entered the game with 18 tackles for the season. He played solely on special teams against Hawaii, when he had zero tackles. He has been dealing with a right mid-foot sprain.

“The tackles are cool, but if we don’t come away with the win or play successfully it doesn’t mean anything,” said Shook, who made 11 solo tackles. “I made my fair share of assignment errors. So I’m responsible for this loss, too.”

WHAT WENT WRONG: The Lobos were overwhelmed by the Falcons’ vaunted triple-option attack and a poor start didn’t help matters. Air Force built a 21-0 lead before halftime.

UNM’s defense finished with too many missed tackles and assignment errors, Gonzales said.

“I told them before the game that Air Force is going to be the toughest team we play all year,” Gonzales said. “We got our tails whooped. Physically got beat. If you get knocked off the ball and you create turnovers that you can’t put in the end zone, it’s a simple formula: you get your tail whooped.”

The missed field goals left Gonzales frustrated.

Steinkamp had a 50-yard field goal blocked to end the first half. He also missed field-goal attempts from 37 and 51 yards. Shelley missed from 40 yards to end the third quarter.

“When you miss four field goals with two guys, that’s ridiculous,” Gonzales said. “That shouldn’t happen. We’ve got good kickers around here so we’ll get it fixed.”

NOTABLE: Can the Lobos break their losing streak on Thanksgiving? Utah State (0-4) hasn’t played since Nov. 14, when it lost to Fresno State 35-16. The Aggies’ game at Wyoming on Nov. 19 was canceled due to an upward trend of COVID-19 cases within the Utah State program.

The Aggies have an interim coach, Frank Maile, after they let go of Gary Andersen two weeks ago.

HE SAID IT: “It felt like we got run over. Got punched in the mouth. It’s not good feeling like that.”

– Lobo linebacker Brandon Shook on the loss to Air Force

Box score: Air Force 28, UNM 0

Click here for updated Mountain West standings.

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