*This story has been updated to show that the six UNM players who are in quarantine due to contact tracing of the coronavirus must remain quarantined for 10 days, according to NCAA rules, and are expected to be out for next week’s game against Air Force.
EL PASO – The University of New Mexico Lobos tried to take that whole “next man up” thing to the extreme against UTEP, but the Miners took advantage of a dismantled UNM offense for a 20-13 win on Saturday in front of 15,609 at the Sun Bowl.
The Miners (3-1) scored 17 unanswered points in the second half, including two touchdowns in the third quarter to pick up the win.
Six UNM players were ruled out Friday, but announced on Saturday, due to COVID-19 contact tracing rules.
Wide receivers Mannie Logan-Greene, Keyonta Lanier, Elijah Queen, Andrew Erickson and Zarak Scruggs Jr., as well as tight end Trace Bruckler were ruled out after a positive COVID-19 case on the team that caused the players to be unavailable due to contact tracing, UNM Athletics announced minutes before the game. The six players had been instrumental in helping the Lobos start the season 2-1 before Saturday.
Only non-vaccinated players have been getting tested, three times a week, for the coronavirus. The Lobos who are not vaccinated were last tested on Thursday and UNM received the positive COVID-19 result later in the day. They ruled out players due to contact tracing with the utmost caution.
UNM has required all students, faculty and staff accessing UNM facilities to get vaccinated by Sept. 30.
Some of the players who were ruled out could have been partially vaccinated.
UNM would not name the player who tested positive, citing health and privacy regulations. UNM coach Danny Gonzales told the Journal that his team was about 80% vaccinated three weeks ago. Gonzales said he was made aware of the players who were not available due to contact tracing on Friday morning. Gonzales would not say if the players were partially vaccinated, citing health and privacy regulations. The six players in quarantine did not make the trip to El Paso with the team.
At one point, UNM quarterback Terry Wilson threw 11 straight incompletions, eight to start the second half, showing the effects of the players who were out. The players must be quarantined for 10 days as a matter of caution, according to NCAA rules, so they will not be available for the Lobos’ Mountain West Conference opener against Air Force next Saturday at University Stadium.
Another example of the Lobos hurting without six key pass catchers: UNM went with a quarterback keeper on 3rd-and-10 with just under 6 minutes remaining in the game and failed to convert.
Luke Wysong, Jace Taylor and Austin Erickson each made their first start at receiver for the Lobos, who drove to the UTEP 33 with under a minute remaining in the game.
“‘What if,’ it doesn’t matter,” Gonzales said after being asked what if he had the missing players available. “We played with the guys that we played. We should have won. We made too many mistakes in the secondary, and we didn’t block worth a darn, especially in the second half on offense. That didn’t change the outcome.”
In the third quarter, the Miners attacked the Lobos (2-2) deep and found success. They scored two touchdowns on the strength of two deep passes, the latter giving UTEP its first lead of the game, 17-13.
Jacob Cowing, the Miners’ leading receiver, got wide open behind the defense for a 55-yard touchdown reception from Hobbs High product Gavin Hardison. Replays showed another UTEP receiver rubbed a defender (Ronald Wilson), picking him off coverage on Cowing about 10 yards into Cowing’s route.
Hardison connected with wide receiver Justin Garrett for 37 yards to set up Deion Hankins’ 4-yard touchdown that drew the Miners within 13-10 early in the third quarter.
UNM led 13-3 at the half.
Wilson led the Lobos on an 8-play, 67-yard drive ending with his deft, made-for-SportsCenter 12-yard run. He dived into the end zone from about the 4-yard line and bounced off a tackle in midair for the touchdown.
“Donte Martin had a chance at a pick six,” Gonzales said. “Jerrick Reed had a chance at a pick six. Those plays are the difference in the game. It’s a shame. It’s too bad because we lost a lot of momentum in the community. Now we’ve lost two. We’re 2-2. We could’ve been 3-1. Give credit to UTEP. They whooped our tail in the second half. I thought we were content at halftime. We gotta get over that so we can finish the ball game.”