UNM Needs To End Inconsistency
Last Saturday, the New Mexico Lobos played Tulsa to a virtual standoff — well, for one quarter, anyway.
From that, UNM coach Mike Locksley draws both encouragement and frustration.
He knows the Lobos can play much better football, especially on offense, than they did the rest of the way that night en route to an eventual 44-10 thumping.
He believes the time will come when his troops will play four solid quarters, not just one.
But will that time arrive next Saturday, when UNM (0-2) opens its Mountain West Conference schedule against Air Force (1-1) at University Stadium?
“That’s the encouraging part,” Locksley said on Tuesday of the Lobos’ solid first quarter against Tulsa. “That’s why I say that our offense right now is like a flickering pilot light, somehow needing to get ignited.”
For a few moments in that first quarter, it looked as if quarterback Donovan Porterie had put a match to that flame.
Down 7-0, the Lobos forced a Tulsa punt and took over on their own 20-yard line. On a third-and-10, Porterie scrambled out of the pocket and found backup wide receiver Nick Wilhelm for a 29-yard gain.
Wide receiver Daryl Jones then gained 19 yards on a neatly executed reverse, giving the Lobos a first down on the Tulsa 32. The drive would stall three plays later, but James Aho got UNM on the scoreboard with a 48-yard field goal as the period ended.
The Lobos finished the quarter with more yards total offense and more time of possession than the Golden Hurricane. Porterie had completed 7 of 8 passes and connected with Wilhelm on UNM’s longest offensive play of the young season.
Yet, even during that sequence, the inconsistency and poor execution that has dogged the UNM offense came to roost.
Locksley was forced to send in Aho to kick a field goal because, on a third-and-2 from the Tulsa 32, no Lobo (though there were several in the vicinity) got a block on Golden Hurricane linebacker Curnelius Arnick — who dropped running back A.J. Butler for only a 2-yard gain on a screen pass. Had Arnick not made the tackle, Butler would have made a first down and then some.
From there, mistakes mounted faster than yards gained. Aho’s field goal was the last offensive snap of the night the Lobos took on Tulsa’s defensive half of the field.
Yet, Locksley said he doesn’t believe his offense is that far from igniting.
“When we finally do make that block on A.J.’s screen,” he said, “or make the block on the power play, or win the one-on-one in space, or when A.J. catches the swing (pass) out of the backfield, or we catch the snap on third-and-2 and execute to an open guy, that’s when I think the momentum of this offense will build.”
DEFENDING THE OPTION: Locksley said he and his defensive staff are no strangers to the triple-option offense that Air Force has run for so many years.
UNM defensive coordinator Doug Mallory, he pointed out, was co-coordinator for the LSU team that throttled Georgia Tech’s version of the triple option in last December’s Peach Bowl. Locksley himself coached in and against the triple option while working as an assistant at Army and the U.S. Navy Prep School.
“If you start sitting in the same (defensive) front, eventually they’re gonna find a way schematically to gain an advantage,” Locksley said.
“We’ve got to do a good job of making sure we mix up who’s the dive player, who’s the quarterback player and who’s the pitch player, and have a couple of (different looks) for your team to show and execute.”
Air Force at New Mexico, University Stadium, 5:34 p.m.
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