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Harrison: Lobos took a step back at Air Force

Air Force kicks off the ball to New Mexico in empty Falcon Stadium in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 20, 2020, at Air Force Academy, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

This and that:

It’s necessary to keep the macro perspective. In this space not long ago, the opinion in this space was that Lobo football gets a pass this season, given the pandemic, the program’s isolated tour of duty in Vegas and the transition to new leadership.

That opinion holds fast.

It’s also tempting, since they’re playing voluntarily and we’re watching, to take a cynical, evaluative perspective. And after Friday night’s 28-0 loss to an unremarkable (2-2) Air Force team, oh boy.

Through UNM’s first three defeats, there still were reasons for optimism. Friday was a major step of regression.

Danny Gonzales’ assertion postgame that his team got outcoached is coach-speak, true. It’s also spot on. It seemed, particularly in the first half, like the Lobos were playing 11 on 13. Throwing into double-coverage on offense. On defense, chasing Air Force running backs running free.

Of course this was a difficult offense to prep for, especially on a short week. That in part explains the 28. The zero is harder to excuse, especially when the Falcons fumbled the ball away on three consecutive possessions in their own territory, serving on a platter a chance for UNM to at least score.

Then there were the field-goal attempts … Miami Dolphin Jason Sanders, we miss you. Probably didn’t appreciate you appropriately when you were a Lobo.

In all, it was a disappointing result on an elevated (no pun intended, but 6,600 feet at the Academy) stage with the Friday night airing.

But what we believe about Gonzales is that this is killing him, and you can bet he spent the day after obsessing to get it fixed. No Saturday golf for him during a time of crisis.

Meanwhile, that’s 13 straight UNM defeats over two regimes, equivalent to a full-size season plus a game. The last win was that 55-52 home thriller over New Mexico State that seems so long ago, but was in September 2019.

Coming into Saturday, there were 11 winless teams, and Oregon State won to trim the list to 10 (listed in a box accompanying this column) in 2020. Of those, only one has a losing skid longer than the Lobos’. It’s the Akron Zips, with 20.

As an aside, it’s not just the Mountain West. Look at all the Mid-American Conference teams on that list. Doesn’t that make you excited for midweek MAC-tion on ESPN?

Anyway, with a holiday date coming this week against also-winless Utah State, UNM can give thanks that at least it’s not No. 1 on that unflattering list.

In an obviously, extremely difficult season, there are three dates left to taste victory. Until the Lobos end this misery, it’s goooooo (down) Zips!

Winless teams in 2020

Team Streak This Week’s Result Next (Sat. unless noted)

Akron 20 Lost 69-35 at Kent State Vs. Miami (Ohio)

New Mexico 13 Lost 28-0 at Air Force At Utah State (Thu.)

Massachusetts 10 Lost 24-2 at Fla. Atlantic At Liberty (Fri.)

La. Monroe 9 Idle Vs. La. Lafayette (Nov. 28)

Vanderbilt 8 Lost 38-17 vs. Florida Vs. Tennessee

Utah State 5 At Wyoming, ccd., virus Vs. New Mexico (Thu.)

Eastern Michigan 5 Lost 45-28 vs. Toledo Vs. Central Mich. (Fri.)

Penn State 5 Lost 41-21 vs. Iowa At Michigan

UNLV 4 At Colorado State, ppd. virus Vs. Wyoming (Fri.)

Northern Illinois 3 Lost 31-25 at Ball State At W. Michigan (Nov. 28)

Colorado Rockies owner Dick Monfort, left, is interviewed by Josh Sucho at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque in 2015.Suchon has left his job as New Mexico women’s basketball radio play-by-play announcer. (Marla Brose/Albuquerque Journal)

SUCHON’S MOVE: How to congratulate Josh Suchon, now-former Lobo women’s basketball play-by-play radio announcer, on what seemingly is just a horizontal move to work with league rival Nevada?

Easy. It’s the Pandemic Apocalypse, and as he said in Ken Sickenger’s report in Saturday’s Journal, Suchon will be happy to “make money again.”

Recall that Suchon also has been the Isotopes’ play-by-play guy since 2013, and he just went through a season of crickets in minor league baseball – no games this past summer, certainly with no assurances that the minors come back into operation in 2021.

And who knows what UNM and its marketing partner’s plans are to call Lobo women’s basketball this season, if there are plans at all? We don’t, yet.

Suchon, who also has written a couple of books, not just sports-related, is a talented, hard-working guy with varied interests. He also chose a competitive broadcasting field in which the supply of such talent far exceeds the demand of jobs available. So good for him.

It interests me that the three play-by-play guys in Isotopes history – first Bob Socci, then Robert Portnoy and Suchon – had contrasting strengths. Suchon’s call, and his pregame work, always has appealed to my inner baseball wonk.

Meanwhile, if the Isotopes return to play in 2021, Suchon perhaps can return. Recall that Socci was a Naval Academy football and basketball announcer wrapped around his Isotopes season. Suchon and Isotopes management/ownership would have to decide if that’s something they want to try.

If it’s this coming spring, what a nice problem to address for them and all of us.