On one hand, the bye week’s arrival is untimely for the University of New Mexico because it might quell the momentum from Saturday’s big road win that snapped a five-game skid.
But on the other hand, and this one is mostly true, the bye comes at a perfect time for the Lobos, who need senior quarterback Terry Wilson to regain full health and who need more practice with an offense unveiled in the aforementioned 14-3 win at Wyoming.
With redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Chavez at the helm, the Lobos (3-5, 1-3 Mountain West) used a ball-control, triple-option attack to stun the Cowboys, who entered as 20-point favorites. Chavez was named Mountain West Freshman of the Week on Monday after he set a program record for passing percentage in a game (90.9%, 10-for-11 for 112 yards).
But, will UNM indeed continue to use that offense throughout the rest of the season?
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Gonzales said at his press conference on Tuesday. “And, so would (UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo). He would like to know, too. I’ll tell you how you can find out. Show up on Nov. 6 (date of the UNLV game) and you’ll see what we’re doing.”
It appears at least to one interested party that the Lobos want to use an offense that controls the clock for this season and beyond. Brayten Silbor, a senior quarterback at Chaparral High in Scottsdale, Arizona, decommitted from UNM and reopened his recruitment because of offensive scheme changes at New Mexico, he announced on Twitter on Tuesday night.
I would like to thank @DrewMehringer and @JordanSom_UNM and the rest of the coaching staff at UNM for their belief in me, but after talking it over I have decided to decommit from the program due to changes in the offense. My recruitment is 100% open.
— Brayten Silbor (@BraytenSilbor) October 27, 2021
Silbor, rated the state’s top quarterback by the Arizona Republic, leads the state in passing with 2,418 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions on 168-of-258 passing (65%). He has rushed for 80 yards on 16 carries for 4-4 Chaparral. He had committed to UNM in July.
“They’re changing their scheme to more of a triple-option style and that’s not how I play,” Silbor said in a phone interview with the Journal on Tuesday night. “Frankly, I don’t know if I would be very good at it. I like to air the ball out and throw it. I’m not much of a running quarterback.”
Silbor said he was told by a UNM assistant coach that the Lobos would be changing their offensive scheme to more of an option-read, ball-control philosophy. He said he is grateful for good communication with the Lobos’ coaches. By NCAA rule, they can’t comment publicly on commitments, meanwhile, other than to acknowledge recruitment.
“I’m just trying to find a home where it’s going to be a lot of throwing for me so I play my best game,” Silbor said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be yet. We’ll see where I end up.”
Gonzales believes there must be a threat of the pass, but it appears the Lobos want quarterbacks who are more mobile.
“I don’t think you can be a team that wins championships that throws it three times a game,” Gonzales said. “I don’t think you can be a predominant run-only, triple-option team and win championships. You have to be able to throw the ball in this day and age of college football. What we did on Saturday was really hard to prepare for, especially if you don’t know what’s coming.”
Before Wyoming, albeit when the offense was struggling, the Lobos used a balanced offense, and sprinkled in triple-option and read-option packages. They also went nine quarters without a touchdown before Chavez found a wide-open Trace Bruckler on a fourth-down play for 46 yards in the opening quarter against the Cowboys.
The Lobos were scoreless in the second half, so they know they have work to do.
Offensive coordinator Derek Warehime knew a change in philosophy was needed before Wyoming, and it could be for more than just one game.
“We’re thin in the offensive line, struggling in pass protection the entire season,” Warehime said.
“We’re better off reading people instead of blocking everybody. We got some kids that can run on the perimeter. We gotta do a better job of getting it to them on the perimeter. Use different ways. We got quarterbacks who can do it.”
WILSON UPDATE: Wilson, a Kentucky transfer who started the first six games, has not been cleared for full activity as he recovers from an elbow injury to his left (non-throwing arm) elbow sustained on Oct. 9, but Gonzales feels Wilson will be ready before the Lobos host to UNLV (0-7, 0-3). The Rebels play at rival Nevada (5-2, 2-1) on Friday night.
Wilson, who went 17-8 as the starter for Kentucky, has thrown for 1,058 yards and seven touchdowns on 101-of-174 passing (58%) with four interceptions, and has shown he’s a capable runner. His 56-yard run in a 27-17 win over Houston Baptist in the season opener is the Lobos’ longest rush of the season.
He also had a spectacular 12-yard TD run in a 20-13 loss at UTEP on Sept. 25.
“I think he fits right in,” Gonzales said after he was asked if Wilson can be productive in a run-first, ball-control offense.
“Terry is a stud, now. He did option-read at Kentucky. He’ll be fine.”
Gonzales, at one point during the press conference, referred to Wilson as “our starting quarterback,” but also said Chavez is in the mix to start against the Rebels.
“As we go over the next two weeks, we’ll evaluate who the best player is and gives us a chance to win, and that guy is going to play,” Gonzales said. “It don’t matter who it is, whether it’s Terry or Isaiah, the one who gives us a chance to win is the one who is going to play.”
Both Gonzales and Warehime have been pleased with Chavez, a former walk-on from Rio Rancho who began 2020 as the fifth-string quarterback and led the Lobos to wins over Wyoming and Fresno State.
Chavez led the Lobos with 49 rushing yards on 16 carries.
“He’s a tough guy,” Warehime said of Chavez. “He plays really hard. This place means a lot to him. He’s very coachable. He’s a hard-nosed, chip-on-his-shoulder competitor and he’s going to give it everything he’s got, every single week. Every time that he’s been in there he has had success. We’re fired up about Isaiah.”