COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Texas A&M (2-0), ranked No. 5 in the coaches’ poll and No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, will be looking to get its offense on track with a new quarterback, Zach Calzada, on Saturday morning (11 a.m., SEC Network, 770 AM/96.3 FM) against 2-0 New Mexico, a 30-point underdog.
Calzada will be making his first career start in place of Haynes King, who sustained a broken leg early against Colorado last week. Calzada then led the Aggies to a 10-7 win. It was A&M’s 10th straight win, tied for the second longest win streak in the nation with Oklahoma behind Alabama (16).
The Lobos are on a four-game win streak, which is tied for the sixth longest with seven others, including Arizona State, where UNM second-year coach Danny Gonzales last worked as a defensive coordinator before coming to his alma mater to work on a rebuild.
The work remains in progress.
UNM will receive $1.1 million for playing Texas A&M at Kyle Field. But Gonzales wants more for his team when it comes to the experience and improving. He said the Lobos are going to the game expecting to win, but also admitted the Aggies are plenty capable of blowing out his team.
Asked this week about his linebackers’ inexperience, for example, Gonzales responded: “We have inexperience across the board. The offensive line has some experience. The rest of our team doesn’t. We played seven games last year, and the majority of (the Lobos) had not played before. Joey Noble, our best defensive lineman, his first start was against San Jose State (in the season opener) last year. We don’t have a whole lot of experience.”
Noble, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior from Lakewood, Calif., is one of five players who played every snap on defense last week when the Lobos beat New Mexico State 34-25. Safeties Tavian Combs and Jerrick Reed, along with cornerbacks Donte Martin and Corey Hightower, also played every snap against NMSU.
Will there be more of a rotation against Texas A&M this week?
“If guys practice hard and show they are prepared to play, they’ll get opportunities,” Gonzales said. “I think we do need to sub more up front on defense to stay fresh. But Joey Noble played every single play, and his play never diminished.”
Ronald Wilson, a freshman from North Crowley High in Fort Worth, will play in his first game when he rotates in at safety. Junior safety Antonio Hunt must sit out the first half after being ejected for a targeting foul last week.
Calzada’s top target figures to be junior wide receiver Ainias Smith. The Aggies have a double threat at running back in Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane.
Senior transfer quarterback Terry Wilson, who lost in overtime at Texas A&M 20-14 in 2018 with Kentucky, has gotten the Lobo offense to a fast start to 2021. Wilson has guided the Lobos to a touchdown drive on their first possession each game. Of UNM’s 61 points this season, 52 have come in the first half.
NOTE: Quarterback Isaiah Chavez, a former Rio Rancho standout who led the Lobos to two wins last season, will not make the trip to College Station, Texas, Gonzales said. Chavez sustained a concussion late in preseason, and Gonzales said he is “not 100%.”