Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
Whenever University of New Mexico wide receiver Luke Wysong confronts a highly intense game or moment, the freshman thinks back to what his father, uncle and Cleveland High coaches always told him: Never make any moment bigger than what it is.
And then there’s one more part to that statement, Wysong’s actions in those moments.
“Just do me,” he says.
Wysong (19 catches for 117 yards) delivered some big plays throughout the first three games of the season, but then he gained a larger role when he received his first start last Saturday at UTEP, amid adversity to the Lobos’ wide receiver group.
Wysong said he never felt any pressure when UNM wide receivers Mannie Logan-Greene, Keyonta Lanier, Elijah Queen, Andrew Erickson and Zarak Scruggs Jr. were ruled out after a COVID-19 positive case on the team, and subsequent contact tracing protocols that also left freshman tight end Trace Bruckler unavailable.
Sophomore Jace Taylor and Erickson’s younger brother, Austin, a freshman out of Manzano, also made their first start of the season.
“There was no one who was bright-eyed or not prepared for the moment,” UNM coach Danny Gonzales said. “They didn’t make a lot of assignment errors. … They have the right mentality. If you have an opportunity, make it count. We have a lot more depth than we thought.”
The starting-lineup changes came the day before the Lobos faced the Miners, leaving UNM without its top three offensive playmakers in Logan-Greene, Lanier and Andrew Erickson.
The remaining available receivers, including Volcano Vista graduate Joah Flores and Missouri transfer Cjay Boone, helped the Lobos (2-2) build a 10-3 lead at halftime. But then quarterback Terry Wilson battled hamstring issues, leading to a scoreless second half and a 20-13 loss.
With the status of the six who were out undetermined for the Lobos’ Mountain West Conference opener Saturday against Air Force (3-1, 0-1 MWC), Wysong, Taylor and Austin Erickson are slated to start again.
There is a possibility that some of the six who were out against UTEP will be cleared for Saturday’s game, but it won’t be announced until game day, Gonzales said. Practices have been closed this week, and whether any of the six could get work before Saturday isn’t publicly known.
Taylor, from Lake Havasu, Arizona, says he’ll be ready, adding the receivers’ mentality has been: “Man down, man up.”
Wilson said on Tuesday that he was planning to receive treatment throughout the week and will be ready to play. He said he has confidence in the receivers and knows that they can make plays.
Taylor provided an example of that when he caught a 17-yard pass on third-and-10 early in the first quarter. It was his first college catch. That helped keep the Lobos’ drive alive and they went on to score when Wilson capped a gritty, eight-play, 67-yard drive with a 12-yard run.
“We’re trained for this,” Taylor said of dealing with the adversity of losing playmakers. “The receiver group as a whole, we’re so deep we have a lot of guys who can play. So, yeah, the receiver group did take a hit, and it sucks to lose those guys, but I think the guys we have right now we’ve really stepped up and accepted the challenge.”
Wysong’s 28-yard reception early in the second quarter on 3rd-and-8 helped set up Andrew Shelley’s 43-yard field goal.
Wysong hopes to make more big plays against the Falcons at University Stadium. Gonzales believes Wysong can be a special player for the Lobos. The 5-foot-10, 170-pound speedster was named the Journal’s 6-A State Player of the Year, and also received the state’s top honor from Gatorade after catching 15 passes for 429 yards and six touchdowns for Cleveland High during a shortened senior season in the spring.
Wysong had already committed to the Lobos before the season. His father, Adam, and two uncles, Ben and Daniel, played football at UNM. Wysong’s mother, Beth, played volleyball for the Lobos.
“It’s been crazy,” Wysong said of his freshman season thus far. “College is definitely a lot different than high school. In front of my hometown crowd, it’s pretty cool. I enjoy playing in front of the same people that I’ve always been playing in front of. The support that I get from my friends and family and people in the community, it’s crazy. I really enjoy it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m very thankful. I’m blessed to have all the opportunities that I’ve been given.”