University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales will turn to “fearless” freshman CJ Montes if senior quarterback Terry Wilson is sidelined with a left elbow injury and unable to try to help the Lobos break a 10-game losing streak in the series against Colorado State on Saturday.
Wilson, who did not practice on Tuesday, sustained a dislocated elbow on his non-throwing arm during the fourth quarter of UNM’s 31-7 loss to then-No. 25-ranked San Diego State on Saturday.
Gonzales said at his Tuesday press conference that he anticipates Wilson to practice in some capacity on Wednesday, and the Lobos’ second-year coach expects the Kentucky transfer to be a game-day decision.
Wilson said he was experiencing soreness and that the elbow was swollen. He has thrown for 1,058 yards, seven touchdowns on 101-of-174 passing with one interception. The offense have been struggling during UNM’s four-game losing streak, having been shut out twice, in a 34-0 loss at Texas A&M on Sept. 18 and against SDSU in Carson, Calif. UNM linebacker Ray Leutele provided the only points with his 15-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
If Wilson is ruled out, the Lobos (2-4, 0-2 Mountain West) will roll with Montes, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound signal-caller out of Paraclete High in Lancaster, Calif.
Montes came in relief of Wilson late against the Aztecs. He did not complete a pass on his one attempt and he lost a yard on his one rush.
He has been described as a dual-threat quarterback.
“Dual threat? I’m really a pocket passer who can run,” Montes said. “I don’t want to be labeled as a dual threat. They know that I can throw the ball so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Montes, who is known from being featured on Snoop Dogg’s youth football team in a documentary on Netflix, arrived in Albuquerque in late July and proceeded to move up the depth chart through preseason camp. Trae Hall, a redshirt junior who started three games last year at quarterback, was recently converted to wide receiver to help provide depth and because of his versatility and athleticism.
Gonzales had said on Saturday that he would decide between Montes, Hall and sophomore Isaiah Chavez to start at quarterback if Wilson were not to play.
“Isaiah had missed the past six weeks and didn’t practice until last Thursday,” Gonzales said of the Rio Rancho product who led the Lobos over Wyoming (17-16) and Fresno State (49-39) last season, which he began as the fifth-string QB. “He wasn’t allowed to do much physical activity until he was cleared. He’s working back into the rotation. He’ll be ready in a role if we need him.”
Chavez, a former walk-on who earned a scholarship, sustained a concussion during the final week of preseason camp and was not cleared until the week leading up to the Lobos’ game against Air Force on Oct. 2.
Montes and Chavez took the majority of reps during Tuesday’s practice, Gonzales said. The Lobos also have Bear Milacek, a freshman out of Boulder Creek High in Arizona, and sophomore walk-on Connor Genal, who last year started against Wyoming and sustained a wrist injury just before halftime.
Montes shows little, if any, remorse when he makes a mistake and immediately wants to know what he can do to improve, Gonzales said.
“I’ve been complaining about our football team not letting things go and waiting for bad things to happen and not being able to overcome them,” Gonzales said. “He’s got the complete opposite (attitude). … He’s going to be a really good player.”
Montes said he’s nervous, but not afraid. He certainly does not lack for confidence.
“I think it’s a big game for myself, maybe my first collegiate start,” Montes said. “Schematically, we should run through these guys. What (offensive coordinator Derek Warehime) has for us, I think we should blow these guys out.”
UNM is a 10-point underdog to the Rams (2-3, 0-1).
If the swelling minimizes for Wilson, he can wear a brace, and then it will most likely be about Wilson’s pain tolerance. Gonzales called Wilson “a tough guy,” after it took about 10 minutes for trainers to pop Wilson’s elbow back into place in the medical tent on Saturday.
“I’m trying to play,” Wilson said. “But at the same time I’m not going to force it. I’m not going to go out there with it swollen. I’m still dealing with that. I’m just trying to make sure I get my arm right before I get back on the field. … I’m just trying to play it smart.”
BIG-TIME RECOVERY: Senior linebacker Reco Hannah has recovered “really well” from surgery on his right knee and Gonzales anticipates for him to play against the Rams.
Hannah needed surgery after experiencing pain after the Lobos’ season-opening win over Houston Baptist. He had six tackles, one sack and one tackle for a loss.
“The plan right now is that he stil has three games left that he can play and redshirt him,” Gonzales said. “We’ll find three games that he can play in. He looked really good in practice.”
Freshman wide receiver Keyonta Lanier is expected to play after a shoulder injury sustained agaisnt SDSU. Senior wide receiver Mannie Logan-Greene (chest injury) is expected to be out for the second straight week.
Sophomore wide receiver Cjay Boone is back after missing last week while fighting a cold. He did not test positive for COVID-19, but the Lobos kept him out as a matter of caution, Gonzales said.
SATURDAY: Colorado State at UNM, 5 p.m., streaming on Stadium, 770 AM/96.3 FM