Lobo senior defender Noble lives up to expectations - Albuquerque Journal

Lobo senior defender Noble lives up to expectations

SATURDAY: UNM at Wyoming, 1:30 p.m., 770 AM/96.3 FM, streaming at Stadium

When University of New Mexico senior Joey Noble heard that coach Danny Gonzales described the Lobos’ matchup against Wyoming as a “street fight,” the defensive end couldn’t help but smile.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Noble said.

Noble and the defensive line will be crucial in what the Lobos (2-5, 0-3 in Mountain West) expect will be an old-school-type slug-fest against the Cowboys (4-2, 0-2) in Laramie on Saturday. With both offenses struggling, particularly at the quarterback position, the teams are wanting to lean on their run game for any hope of success.

Both teams are expected to determine their respective starting quarterback near game-time. Wyoming was shut out, 17-0, against visiting Fresno State last week. UNM’s offense was shut out for the second straight game last week, when the Lobos produced 69 yards, the lowest in a league game and the second-least in program history.

Noble, who is having a standout season, welcomes a physical contest and a game that’s sure to include hard hits. He has 11 tackles for loss, which ranks third in the nation. He’s third on the team with 48 tackles and leads the team with five sacks.

“I said at the beginning of the year that he would be one of the best defensive linemen in the Mountain West Conference and he’s living up to that,” Gonzales said. “Plays the right way, practices the right way, and fighting through a little bit of an injury, too. Just fighting through being a football player, which is awesome. That’s a good example that he can set for the younger guys. He’s productive. He plays hard. And we’re going to miss him next year.”

Noble is the Lobos’ quiet leader, the type who keeps his head down and goes to work. When asked how he has been able to be so productive this season, he used one of Gonzales’ go-to quotes.

“Like coach says: effort, attitude and want-to,” Noble said. “My effort and work ethic, it’s been a good deal. I’m just doing my job and making plays.”

Junior Jake Saltonstall, a fellow defensive end and a close friend of Noble’s, recently went over the statistics that the Orange County, California native has compiled. During the offseason, Noble vowed to break out and used an All-MWC honorable mention recognition as motivation to earn the full tag this year.

“That’s stuff that’s not heard of from a defensive lineman,” Saltonstall said of Noble’s stats. “It’s just kind of crazy to see his dream come to fruition.”

Saltonstall, who has 23 tackles and one sack this season, came up with one of the big defensive plays last year in the Lobos’ 17-16 win over Wyoming. With the Lobos’ protecting that one-point lead in the fourth quarter, the UNM defense came up with two turnovers, with Saltonstall helping when he came up with a fumble recovery.

“Honestly, I never really took credit for it,” Saltonstall said. “It was kind of Brandon Shook’s play. He’s the guy who forced the fumble. Recovering it is the easiest part. We kind of practice that every day. Defense is always swarming to the ball. It kind of just became second nature because of what Coach G (Gonzales) and Coach (Rocky) Long instilled in our memory. I don’t really take credit for it. It was just a fumble recovery. I’m looking forward to hopefully playing another good game.”


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