COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The University of New Mexico got a nice payday with $1.1 million for playing at Texas A&M ($200,000 paid in June 2015 when the game was set, $900,000 for this fiscal year) on Saturday.
But the Lobos failed to hit paydirt on the field, where the No. 7-ranked Aggies shut out UNM 34-0 for New Mexico’s first loss of the season.
There were few positives to gather, but coach Danny Gonzales continues to believe in his young players, as they are among the reasons they’ll eventually win a Mountain West Conference championship and contend each season, he said.
Gonzales, a second-year coach who is signed through 2024, used that year as an example for the attitude he wants his players to carry into “money” games against Power 5 teams.
“There are going to be times, like when we go into Auburn (Sept. 14, 2024) and Arizona in 2024, (the Lobos are) going to go in there with the attitude of: that team on the other sideline has no idea what’s about to happen to them,” Gonzales said. “I’ve been a part of that. We’ll get there. We’ve made some progress toward that.”
The game at Arizona is nearly finalized, UNM athletic director Eddie Nuñez said. The Lobos play at LSU (Sept. 10) next year, and again at Texas A&M (Sept. 2) in 2023.
UNM sophomore safety Tavian Combs looks forward to being a part of that future. He, like many of last year’s freshmen, has four more years of eligibility remaining because of the extra year given by the NCAA for the coronavirus-delayed and shortened season last year.
Combs led the Lobos on Saturday with 11 tackles, one interception and one pass breakup. His interception came early in the third quarter when Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada threw a pass toward his sideline. Combs showed his deft athleticism, catching the ball while tapping one foot inbounds. It was a flashback to his days when he also played wide receiver at Randall High School in Amarillo, Texas.
Officials initially ruled that he was out of bounds on the interception, but after the video review Combs picked up his second interception of the season.
Said Combs: “It was a fun experience getting to play a big team like that in a big crowd,” which was announced at 84,748.
“Being able to get in there and make some plays, it was fun.”
Combs, was of course disappointed with the loss and agreed with Gonzales, who said that the Lobos did not show belief they could contend with the Aggies early in the game when A&M went up 14-0 within the first six minutes.
Linebackers Syaire Riley (five tackles) and Ray Leutele (three tackles, one sack) are important parts of the future as well. The defense improved after the first quarter, but Combs agreed that the unit must “build off” this game and continue to progress throughout the season.
On offense, freshman running back Aaron Dumas, a former standout at Americas High in El Paso, was among young offensive players who provided glimpses of their potential. Dumas had the Lobos’ longest play on offense, a 16-yard run, and he led the Lobos in rushing with 49 yards on 10 carries. Next week will be a homecoming for Dumas, as the Lobos play at UTEP, one of several programs that offered him a scholarship.
Freshman tight end Trace Bruckler, from Lone Star High in Frisco, Texas, had two catches for 12 yards.
Wide receiver Luke Wysong, a freshman out of Cleveland High, finished with 20 yards on six carries and one catch for four yards.
“I see a lot for our future,” Combs said. “If we can continue to instill that (winning) mentality on the defense and offense side of the ball, special teams as well, we’ll come together as a group and be a really good team.”