When quarterback Terry Wilson transferred to the University of New Mexico from Kentucky, his decision was credited to the fact that he wanted to go to a place to showcase his passing skills.
Well, that philosophy could be much different after the Lobos’ 14-3 win at Wyoming on Saturday.
UNM might become a run-first, ball-control-type team and might even be triple-option based after breaking out of an offensive slump with redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Chavez directing the offense to help New Mexico end a five-game skid and grab its first Mountain West win.
Even if the Lobos don’t dive all in for the triple-option, they’ll be better served to lean on their run game to contend in their final four games of the regular season after their bye next week.
“If that gives us the best chance to win,” UNM coach Danny Gonzales said, “It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is.”
Wilson didn’t travel with the Lobos to Laramie, instead staying in Albuquerque as he continues to recover from an elbow injury on his left, non-throwing, arm sustained during the fourth quarter of a 31-7 loss against San Diego State on Oct. 9. If he’s healthy next week, he’ll be competing to become the starter again, as Gonzales said he’ll reopen the competition.
“If Terry is back, we’ll evaluate it,” Gonzales said. “Obviously, Isaiah did a nice job of handling the stuff that we did.”
During last week’s practices, UNM offensive coordinator Derek Warehime installed triple-option plays and read-option packages. Chavez excelled in those situations.
The redshirt freshman out of Rio Rancho High said the Lobos watched film from UNM teams of years past that used the triple option, including in 2014, when Warehime was UNM’s run-game coordinator.
“Those guys were hard-nosed players,” Chavez said of former UNM teams. “We saw that and we said, “We can do this. We knew Wyoming doesn’t really like to change out of their game plan. It was a strategic win (on Saturday).”
Still, UNM (3-5, 1-3 MW) missed on a few potential big plays and Chavez could’ve gained more on the ground than his 49 rushing yards had he turned up field aggressively at times, Gonzales said.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The UNM defense held Wyoming to a field goal. It was the first time UNM held a Mountain West opponent to single-digit points since the Lobos beat San Diego State, 70-7, in 2008. UNM forced Wyoming to play musical chairs with its quarterbacks, as Sean Chambers started, then Levi Williams came in only to later be replaced by Chambers.
UNM senior cornerback Corey Hightower recorded his first career interception and freshman linebacker Cody Moon had his first fumble recovery. The Lobos also held the Cowboys to 255 offensive yards and 3-of-12 on third-down conversions. New Mexico also caused Wyoming to turn the ball over on downs twice.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Gonzales said he was disappointed the UNM offense failed to score when it had a short field, stemming from smart decision-making and toughness by freshman wide receiver and punt returner Luke Wysong.
The Lobos went 3-for-4 on fourth down conversions, the one failure occurring deep in Cowboys’ territory.
NOTABLE: Gonzales is 5-10 in his first 15 games, which is tied for the best record by a Lobo coach after his first 15 games since 1983-84, when Joe Lee Dunn started his Lobo career 9-6. Gonzales is tied with Bob Davie (2012-2013). Dennis Franchoine went 4-11 in his first 15 games in 1992-93, and Rocky Long was also 4-11 in 1998-99.
HE SAID IT: “That’s up to the coaches. If they decide to go with, hopefully Terry (Wilson) is back and his arm is feeling better because that dude is a great leader. We don’t talk about that enough. He definitely helps out a lot around here. Whether I get the nod, Terry, CJ (Montes) or Connor, even Connor Genal is a great guy. If one of us gets the nod, it’s going to be good to go and we’re ready to rock out.” — UNM quarterback Isaiah Chavez after being asked if he deserves to start after being 3-0 as the Lobos’ QB