After two straight losses and some key injuries, University of New Mexico coach Danny Gonzales says his players continue to believe in his rebuilding process and that there will eventually be better times and winning seasons.
Gonzales, in his second year with the Lobos (3-7, 1-5 in Mountain West), said the players’ determination and confidence in the plan is stronger than it was earlier in the season.
However, when the season ends, there could be a different story.
“There are certain ones that at the end of the year might decide that this isn’t for them and that’s OK,” Gonzales said at his press conference on Tuesday. “That’s OK in any industry. If you put in a whole bunch of work and you decide that the work isn’t worth it and it’s way too hard, then move on and do something else.”
For now, there is a lot of “buy-in” for Gonzales’ plan and the culture that he’s building, that of a blue-collar, physical, hard-hitting team. Of course, they want to win too. The Lobos ended last season with two straight wins. They want to do the same, starting Saturday at Boise State, a 27½-point favorite.
“They understand what my identity is,” Gonzales said. “They know who I am. If you had a bunch of guys who didn’t believe in what we’re doing and didn’t believe in the process you would have seen a bunch of them that would have quit on Saturday (in a 34-7 loss against Fresno State). They don’t do that. They fight, fight and fight.”
Winning will be daunting for New Mexico, which is expected to be without senior quarterback Terry Wilson (elbow), senior nose tackle Langston Murray (head) and senior wide receiver Mannie Logan-Greene (chest) for the rest of the season, Gonzales said.
BRYSON CARROLL PACKAGE: Last week, Bryson Carroll, a graduate manager, suited up as an emergency quarterback against Fresno State, but there might be an opportunity for him to actually play against Boise State, Gonzales said.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Isaiah Chavez is still dealing with some pain in his right ankle. He is expected to start, but there might be plays for Carroll if Chavez isn’t at 100 percent, Gonzales said.
The 22-year-old, 5-foot-6 Carroll, known for his speed, was recruited as an option quarterback when Bob Davie was coach of the Lobos. Carroll starred at Roosevelt High in San Antonio, Texas, for his dad and coach, Matt. When Carroll was a high school junior, he once rushed for 351 yards and eight touchdowns and threw for 218 yards and two more touchdowns in a game.
He converted to a running back during his redshirt sophomore season at UNM in 2019, when he was second on the team in rushing with 536 yards and two touchdowns.
Carroll said he laughed when running backs coach Jordan Somerville and Gonzales told him they needed him as a quarterback after the loss to UNLV. Gonzales told Carroll to talk to his dad and sleep on it. Carroll said his father laughed, too. But they both became serious and the father told his son: “It’s up to you.”
Carroll didn’t want to let go of playing, and he wanted to help UNM, he said. Suiting up against Fresno State was “surreal,” he said.
“I never thought I would have the opportunity to do it again,” Carroll said. “It was kind of like a come-to-reality situation. I was like, ‘Wow, this is really happening.'”
Carroll is listed as a redshirt senior, and technically he has another season of eligibility due to last year’s coronavirus-shortened season.
After this season, he said he wants to be a graduate assistant for UNM and eventually follow in his father’s footsteps and become a coach.
He earned an undergraduate degree in liberal arts and is on schedule to earn a master’s degree in physical education in May.
“I don’t know what my role will be after these two weeks,” Carroll said. “Whatever it is, I’m ready for it.”