Golden Hurricane Storms
The best an optimist could say is that the University of New Mexico football team’s glass is half-full. On defense.
The mistake-ridden offense, however, still is in a major slump, and Tulsa took advantage, methodically pulling away from the Lobos 44-10 on Saturday night.
Few of the 30,051 fans that attended UNM’s home opener stayed around to watch linebacker Lobos Tray Hardaway’s 92-yard fumble return in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
The play ended a 13-quarter touchdown drought for the Lobos (0-2), dating to last season under former coach Rocky Long, but did little else than put a bandage on the margin of defeat against the Golden Hurricane.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve gone two games without scoring a touchdown (offensively),” first-year coach Mike Locksley said. “I think the one thing that stands out about this game is that when you’ve got four turnovers and numerous penalties and it was a sloppily played game … that rests on my shoulders. It’s my job as a head coach to get these guys out on the field and understand how to play the game cleanly.”
New Mexico hasn’t started a season 0-2 since 2000, when it lost its first three games.
The combined 69 points that UNM has lost by in the first two games ties the worst start for a Lobo team in 99 years. The 1910 team was outscored by a total of 89 points in losses to New Mexico Mines (9-0) and New Mexico Military (80-0). The 1991 team also lost by a combined 69 points in its first two games.
The current Lobos offense is executing almost as poorly as the 1910 bunch. UNM managed just 90 yards of offense after an 81-yard first quarter that produced the only offensive points of the game — a James Aho 48-yard field goal.
The Lobos had seven costly penalties for 63 yards to go along with the three fumbles and one interception.
“The turnovers and the little mistakes, we’re like one block or one pass from making a great play,” senior center Erik Cook said.
Senior quarterback Donovan Porterie has not thrown a touchdown pass since the 2007 New Mexico Bowl. His four-game 2008 season ended without a scoring strike, and he hasn’t found the end zone in the first two games of ’09.
Porterie finished 12-of-22 for 85 yards with one interception Saturday.
His biggest play, a 39-yard pass to wide receiver Daryl Jones in the first half, was wiped out by a holding penalty.
Redshirt freshman B.R. Holbrook entered the game for the first time this season, but his effort — 5-of-8 passing for 31 yards, 10 yards rushing and one fumble — failed to provide a spark.
“That’s something that we’re going to go watch the tape, evaluate and make a decision on Monday,” Locksley said. “I thought that after that last series, Donovan needed to be settled down a little bit, and I thought it was a great opportunity to get B.R. some meaningful reps.”
The running game failed to help. Demond Dennis was the team’s leading ball carrier with 22 yards — one fewer than he had against Texas A&M in the season opener.
That helped Tulsa (2-0) wear down the Lobos defense in the second half. The Hurricane had 310 yards and four touchdowns in the final 30 minutes after having a 17-3 halftime lead.
UNM’s defense made a game of it for the first 26 minutes, holding Tulsa’s high-powered offense to 124 yards. The lone TD to that point came on a 16-yard drive after Frankie Solomon fumbled away what would have been the Lobos’ first possession of the game.
“We held a really good offense to 17 points in the first half,” Locksley said. “I’m proud of the way the defense played. Defense corrected quite a few things.”
Like Texas A&M did last week, Tulsa broke open the game to begin the third quarter with a pair of long scoring drives to take a 30-3 lead.
“We can’t take the ball and let them drive in the second half,” said senior nose tackle Kendall Briscoe, whose strip of Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne led to Hardaway’s lengthy return with 14:16 left in the game that cut UNM’s deficit to 30-10. “We’ve got to set the tone and do a lot better with that, too.”
Kinne completed 22 of 35 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns. The Hurricane finished with 151 rushing yards and 489 total yards.
Locksley said he expected the Lobos’ biggest improvement to take place between the first and second games. The offense was 1-for-15 on third-down conversions.
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