University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales says he has no emotional connection to San Diego State, the Lobos’ opponent on Saturday, and where he worked with Rocky Long for seven seasons.
But there is definitely a connection.
When Gonzales sees the No. 25 Aztecs (4-0) in Carson, Calif., he’ll see what he wants the Lobos (2-3, 0-1 Mountain West) to become.
“The image of what our program will look like is a lot of that,” said Gonzales, the Lobos’ second-year coach. “When you watch them on tape, it’s the aggressive attitude and how hard they play.”
UNM’s offense, which has struggled during the Lobos’ three-game losing streak, will have some familiarity with the defensive scheme that the Aztecs will use, but Gonzales has warned that it will be very different from what they see in practice.
UNM quarterback Terry Wilson and offensive coordinator Derek Warehime believe the Lobos’ problems are much more than their opponent. They need to stop with illegal procedure and illegal formation penalties that have plagued them this season.
After wins over Houston Baptist and New Mexico State, Warehime warned the Lobos that they could not make those type of mistakes against teams with greater talent.
“We can’t have the penalties,” Wilson said. “When you’re moving the ball down the field and that sets you back, you lose momentum there. That’s been the story for the offense the past few games. We have to settle down. We simplified the game plan this week so everyone knows what they’re doing. I’m not sure why the mistakes are happening. We’re just trying to get it fixed.”
Wilson said he is trying to keep the Lobos motivated on offense. He said they are in a “lull” and must find some momentum that will come from big plays.
The Lobos, however, will be without one top playmaker against the Aztecs. Senior wide receiver Mannie Logan-Greene, who sustained a chest injury late in the game against Air Force last week, is expected to be out, Gonzales said. Logan-Greene, also the team’s punt and kickoff return specialist, did not practice with the team this week.
Freshman Luke Wysong and redshirt junior Trae Hall are expected to play at the wide receiver spot, mostly in the slot that Logan-Greene had manned. They’ll also be looked to for big plays.
Hall had played quarterback before being recently converted to wide receiver. He had a 21-yard touchdown reception against Air Force.
The Aztecs are aware of Hall.
“It’s definitely something we have to be cognizant of every time he’s on the field,” said SDSU senior defensive end Keshawn Banks, a Rio Rancho High alum. “It seems like every time he’s on the field he’s touching the ball in some way or another. When he’s on the field they want to get him the ball. We have to be aware of trick plays. Reverse pass. Just anything that can give us trouble and confuse us.”
When the Lobos are on defense, or even kickoff and punt coverage, they’ll need to be aware of Jordan Byrd, the former Manzano High standout whose speed makes him a dangerous threat any time he touches the ball.
NOTE: The Lobos will play at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, where fans in attendance will need to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative result of a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of Saturday.