Kicker, Lineman Among Standouts
Lobos football coach Mike Locksley had no trouble on Tuesday in identifying the playmakers on the Tulsa roster. That’s because the Golden Hurricane, who play UNM on Saturday at University Stadium, made more than their share of positive plays last Friday in a season-opening , 37-13 victory over Tulane.
When it comes to Locksley’s own team, the process is a little tougher.
Offensively, in last Saturday’s 41-6 loss at Texas A&M, the Lobos’ longest gain from scrimmage was 19 yards. Defensively, UNM gave up 13 first downs on the ground, 16 through the air, allowed the Aggies to run 90 plays from scrimmage, and forced no turnovers.
On special teams, kicker James Aho was 2-of-2 on field goals — producing the Lobos’ only points. But punter Adam Miller shanked a couple of punts and boomed another into the end zone from 35 yards out.
So, then. Was the A&M game a total bust, other than Aho’s golden toe and as a lesson in how not to win a season opener? Other than Aho, were no playmakers identified?
In reviewing the game film, Locksley said, he and his staff found a few.
Rarely is an offensive lineman thought of as a playmaker, but Locksley said senior tackle Ivan Hernandez was a standout against the Aggies.
“He played with great effort, he had a bunch of knockdown plays, he got out in front of a few screens,” Locksley said. “He didn’t give up a sack and played with real intensity.”
Hernandez was injured late in the A&M game, but Locksley said he thought the 6-foot-6, 296-pounder would be able to play against Tulsa.
On defense, end Jonathan Rainey made the most of the 38 plays in which he participated.
“We have what we call production points,” Locksley said, “and out of 38 plays (Rainey) had 11 production points. He had a sack, he forced an intentional grounding (which also counted as a sack). He had a tremendous hustle play where he chased the quarterback down from the back side to make a tackle.
“He played with a motor all game long.”
In some cases, Locksley said, the good news was that things weren’t as bad as they seemed.
Talented true freshman running back Demond Dennis lost a fumble, setting up a Texas A&M field goal that put the Lobos down 20-0, and rushed for only a 2.3-yard average. But Locksley said two Dennis rushes that produced a negative 5 yards shouldn’t go on his tab.
UNM runs its no-huddle offense at two different tempos, fast and “check-with-me.” The fast tempo, which is intended to put pressure on a defense but doesn’t allow the quarterback to check out of a potentially bad play, twice had Dennis running into the strength of the A&M defense.
“When you go fast tempo, it’s hard to get out of a bad look,” Locksley said.
UNM wide receivers and tight ends caught 20 passes from quarterback Donovan Porterie, but for a total of only 150 yards. Daryl Jones’ second-quarter reception for 19 yards was UNM’s longest play of the night.
Locksley, though, said he continued to be pleased with the development of the receivers.
“I think we had three drops Saturday, and one was critical on a third-down play,” he said. “But I also saw some guys make some catches where the ball was in some bad places and we came up with (the ball).”
And what about quarterback Donovan Porterie, whose job is to put the ball in a good place? Porterie was 29-of-40 with no interceptions, but for only 210 yards and — of course — no touchdowns.
“I thought (Porterie) had pretty good pocket presence once he got settled down,” Locksley said. “We’ve got to protect him a little better to give him an opportunity to make some throws.”
At other times on Saturday, Locksley said, he would have liked to see a bit more accuracy from his senior quarterback — “to give our playmakers a chance to make plays.”