COLLEGE STATION, Texas — That Texas A&M defense. Oh, that Aggie defense.
Its performance proved to be a definite “Gig’em” for Aggie fans, yet frustration and some expected soreness the next day for the Lobos.
No. 7 Texas A&M, which is actually ranked as high as No. 5 in the coaches’ poll, held UNM to just 122 yards of offense and shut out the Lobos in a 34-0 win in front of 84,748 at Kyle Field on Saturday.
It was the first shutout for the Aggies since 2016. UNM was last shut out against Air Force, 28-0, Nov. 20 of last season.
The Aggies (3-0) won their 11th straight game, the second-longest current win streak in the nation and their longest since 1992 when they won 12 straight.
The Lobos (2-1), who were 30-point underdogs and received $1.1 million to come and play A&M, had their four-game win streak halted, and they didn’t surpass 100 yards of offense for the game until the fourth quarter.
But what bothered UNM coach Danny Gonzales most was the Lobos’ hesitant start when they showed their nerves for playing against a Southeastern Conference team.
“My biggest disappointment as a football team was (the Lobos) didn’t believe they could play with them, and so it was too late,” said Gonzales. “We gave up two touchdowns within the first six minutes of the game before (the Lobos) realized they’re just like us. They were a little faster than us, on defense. But we gave up 10 points the rest of that half, and 10 points in the second half.”
A&M quarterback Zach Calzada, making his first career start in the place of the injured Haynes King, threw two touchdown passes within three minutes and less than six minutes into the game. Calzada hit a wide-open Demond Demas for a 70-yard touchdown pass, his first college reception, that gave the Aggies an early 14-0 lead.
UNM quarterback Terry Wilson, a Kentucky transfer who threw for a career-high 381 yards against New Mexico State last week, finished with just 33 passing yards. He threw his first interception of the season and was 10 for 23. He was sacked four times and under pressure on many of his throws, as the Lobo offensive line struggled against the Aggies’ vaunted defensive front.
“It’s definitely tough not being able to put points up on the board,” Wilson said. “As an offense, I know that it won’t do anything to us. We’ll be able to bounce back from that, correct the things that we need to correct. Texas A&M is a good team. They have a lot of good players over there. We can’t be down on ourselves.”
Gonzales was also disappointed with the offense.
“There was frustration with our lack of execution,” he said. “Man for man, we got beat.”
The UNM defense stepped up when the Lobos settled down after the Aggies’ two quick touchdowns.
Senior defensive end Joey Noble led a defensive line that improved after the first quarter. Noble recorded four tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss.
“I thought Joey and Jake Saltonstall did some great things,” Gonzales said. “(The Aggies) didn’t get the style points they wanted to be a (College Football Playoff) team because they were afraid to get their quarterback hurt.”
Calzada finished with 275 yards and three touchdowns with one interception on 19-of-33 passing. He was sacked three times.
UNM senior defensive lineman Justin Harris had five tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss. UNM sophomore safety Tavian Combs led the Lobos with 11 tackles, one interception and one pass breakup, and junior safety Jerrick Reed II recorded eight tackles.
“Up front we didn’t play very well,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said of the Aggie offensive line. “I thought they played harder than we did. … They kept coming after us. We need to learn to grow up and play a lot more physical.”
When Fisher came off the field after the game, he told a television reporter that the Aggies are “very average,” and they need to improve quickly before taking on No. 20 Arkansas this coming Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Lobos have plenty of work to do before playing at UTEP this coming Saturday. In addition to the lack of execution on offense, UNM made too many mistake on punts and punt coverage, Gonzales said. The Lobos also need a winning mentality, he said.
“The belief in what we’re doing is the hardest thing to change,” Gonzales said. “They’ve had minimal success. We had a four-game winning streak, (which was tied for) sixth longest in the country. But they didn’t believe they had a chance to win today.”
SATURDAY, Sept. 25: UNM at UTEP, 7 p.m., ESPN+ streaming, 770 AM/96.3 FM