During the first quarter, Fox Sports 1 featured University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales’ quote from last week that had him telling it like it is: UNM’s defense is not good enough to make up for an offense being bad.
Not that much changed on Saturday in Carson, Calif., where the Lobos’ defense came up with the only points of the night for UNM.
New Mexico’s defense proved to be the lone bright spot, but it wasn’t nearly enough as 25th-ranked San Diego State won 31-7 in its Mountain West Conference opener in front of 8,387 at Dignity Health Sports Park.
“We did some (good) things in spurts, but still not good enough,” said Gonzales, a former SDSU assistant coach. “We’re playing with enough opportunities on defense, but we’re not capitalizing on offense. … We gotta make plays.”
UNM defensive coordinator Rocky Long, who stepped down as SDSU’s head coach in 2019 after leading the Aztecs to three MWC titles and nine straight bowl games, declined to talk to the media this week in UNM’s game against San Diego State. He let the Lobos defense do the talking on Saturday night.
The unit buckled down after allowing big gains in the first quarter.
Then came Ray Leutele’s huge play late in the third quarter.
Leutele, a sophomore middle linebacker from Mater Dei High in Santa Ana, Calif., stripped SDSU running back Greg Bell of the ball, scooped up the fumble and returned it 15 yards for the touchdown.
That put UNM within 17-7 with 4:41 left in the third quarter. It was the first points scored against SDSU in the third quarter this season. The Aztecs had outscored opponents 62-0 in the third quarter until Leutele broke through.
But New Mexico’s offense continued to struggle as it has since after winning its first two games of the season. The Lobos finished with six three-and-outs and two painful turnovers on offense. The offense hardly gave that UNM defense any time to rest.
As if that didn’t hurt enough, UNM senior quarterback Terry Wilson sustained a left elbow (non-throwing) injury during the fourth quarter when the Aztecs were leading 31-7. Freshman CJ Montes, who played at Paraclete High in Lancaster, Calif., came in after Wilson left the game with his elbow heavily wrapped.
Wilson, a Kentucky transfer, finished 13-of-25 for 127 yards and an interception. When he came off the field after the injury, it took three trainers to pop his elbow back into place, Gonzales said. An x-ray after the game showed no fracture to Wilson’s left arm, Gonzales said.
Gonzales is hopeful that Wilson will be able to play next week against Colorado State at University Stadium. But if Wilson is as not ready, Gonzales said it is not determined who will start, but it will most likely be determined between Montes, Trae Hall and Isaiah Chavez.
Hall was recently converted to a wide receiver, mainly because of lack of depth at the position stemming from a chest injury that took Mannie Logan-Greene out of action.
UNM freshman Aaron Dumas ran for a career-high 77 yards on 11 carries. He started the game since Bobby Cole had to sit the first half because he was flagged for targeting during the second half in the loss to Air Force.
During the first half, twice the Lobos had promising drives and both ended with turnovers, the latter came when Wilson drove UNM to San Diego’s 9-yard line. But then Wilson threw an ill-advised pass that was easily intercepted by Trenton Thompson. The interception came on a play that the Lobos had scored on before, earlier this season, with Wilson throwing to the opposite field of his running direction toward tight end Kyle Jarvis.
The Lobos got off to a rough start to begin the game and things were just as messy to end the first half. That helped the Aztecs build a 17-0 lead.
Greg Bell rushed for 104 yards in the first half, 63 came during the Aztecs’ first drive that he capped with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Bell, a Nebraska transfer, recorded his eighth 100-yard game in his 12 games as an Aztec.
No. 25 San Diego St. 31, New Mexico 7
New Mexico 0 0 7 0 — 7
San Diego St. 7 10 7 7 — 31
SDSU—G.Bell 1 run (Araiza kick), 11:21.
SDSU—FG Araiza 40, 14:57.
SDSU—Brookshire 1 run (Araiza kick), 4:35.
UNM—Leutele 15 fumble return (Shelley kick), 4:41.
SDSU—Brookshire 11 run (Araiza kick), 2:35.
SDSU—C.Bell 8 run (Araiza kick), 13:05.
First downs 12 19
Total Net Yards 193 336
Rushes-yards 35-66 43-203
Passing 127 133
Punt Returns 2-11 2-3
Kickoff Returns 4-82 2-49
Interceptions Ret. 0-0 1-1
Comp-Att-Int 13-26-1 12-25-0
Sacked-Yards Lost 4-35 0-0
Punts 9-40.222 5-48.2
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Penalties-Yards 9-86 5-48
Time of Possession 28:59 31:01
RUSHING—New Mexico, Dumas 11-77, B.Cole 10-25, Montes 1-(minus 1), Hall 1-(minus 1), T.Wilson 12-(minus 34). San Diego St., G.Bell 21-111, Brookshire 5-45, K.Williams 6-22, Armstead 3-10, Johnson 1-6, C.Bell 3-6, Byrd 3-2, Haskell 1-1.
PASSING—New Mexico, T.Wilson 13-24-1-127, Hall 0-1-0-0, Montes 0-1-0-0. San Diego St., Brookshire 11-24-0-130, Johnson 1-1-0-3.
RECEIVING—New Mexico, Wysong 4-51, An.Erickson 3-24, Hall 3-18, Queen 1-28, Taylor 1-3, Witthoft 1-3. San Diego St., Shavers 2-39, Bellinger 2-25, Byrd 2-2, Busbee 1-36, G.Bell 1-7, Kothe 1-7, Matthews 1-6, K.Williams 1-6, Dedeaux 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS—None.