Lobos see bad Moon rise against UTEP; it’s good for them - Albuquerque Journal

Lobos see bad Moon rise against UTEP; it’s good for them

University of New Mexico linebacker Cody Moon (58) sacks UTEP quarterback Gavin Hardison for one of his two sacks on Saturday. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

University of sophomore linebacker Cody Moon refused to call his big-time effort against Boise State on Sept. 9 a breakout game mainly because he didn’t finish with double-digit tackles.

Maybe now it can be said that Moon had his breakout game against UTEP in his first career start.

Moon, a former walk-on from Volcano Vista, recorded a career-high 11 tackles to go with two sacks, as he started in place of Syaire Riley, who was out due to illness. During preseason camp, UNM coach Danny Gonzales said Moon had the potential to become one of the best linebackers in the conference if he put on more weight. Moon is trying to get an early start on that prediction.

In his first 13 games with the Lobos Moon had posted just a half sack.

He’s had 3½ sacks in the past two games. In UNM’s 27-10 win over UTEP on Saturday night, Moon also had a pass break-up, one of 13 passes defended by the Lobo defense.

“I think I’ve excelled a lot as a player since last year,” Moon said last week after he had seven tackles, two tackles for loss and 1½ sacks in a 31-14 loss to Boise State. “It might be my best game yet, but it’s not my best game by far for what’s to come.”

Moon spoke to the media after his big game against UTEP. He said during the offseason, he learned a lot more about the Lobos’ 3-3-5 defense. With that knowledge, Moon has been playing much faster than last year. He also added strength during of the offseason.

Last year, because Moon walked on at UNM, Gonzales explained it was as if he challenged the Volcano Vista product to prove him wrong. Moon did.

A reporter asked Moon if he believed he had put New Mexico high school football on the map with his rise from walk-on.

“I think I’m putting New Mexico high school football on the map a little bit,” Moon said. “But I still got a whole lot more work to do.”

Riley is expected back this week, Gonzales said, and he will continue to rotate with Moon as both have had an even amount of playing time.

Redshirt sophomore middle linebacker Dion Hunter, a Cleveland High graduate, has missed the first three games of the season due to illness. He had been projected to rotate with Ray Leutele. With Hunter out, Moon has played the left and right linebacker positions.

Hunter has remained a game-time decision each game and will be evaluated this week heading into the Lobos’ game at LSU, a 30-point favorite, on Saturday.

ALUMNI MOTIVATION: Former UNM players from the 1962, ’82 and ’97 teams made up a great amount of the alumni on the field before kickoff. The Lobos from the past lined each side at the entrance of UNM’s new performance center (not yet completed) so the current Lobos could run in between them.

Several of the former players took photos and recorded videos of the moment. The Lobos made sure not to disappoint their meaningful fans who want them to achieve greater accomplishments than they reached. The 1962 team won the Western Athletic Conference championship, the first of three straight WAC titles. The 1982 team went 10-1 and it is the only 10-win team in program history. The 1997 squad won a WAC division title.

As the current Lobos warmed up, several former players had a reunion. They hugged and posed for photos at the south end zone.

Adam Wysong, the father of UNM wide receiver Luke Wysong, said he thoroughly enjoyed seeing his teammates from the past. He played on the 1997 team with Gonzales.

“It’s just awesome, man,” said Adam Wysong, whose younger brother Ben also played for the Lobos. “It’s bringing back tradition to UNM. These good ‘ol wholesome players, they just love bein’ Lobos. It’s just one of those things. It’s a brotherhood. It’s that football love for each other.”

Luke Wysong said it was “cool,” to see the former players and meet them because his father has told him stories about them. The UNM sophomore said the Lobos were motivated by the alumni. New Mexico dominated the first half and built a 20-3 lead.

“They have a lot of juice,” Luke Wysong said of the alumni. “I know they all support this program wholeheartedly. It was really good. I hope we continue to get them out here. All the support we can get is really great.”

NO THANK YOU: Gonzales had been in meetings for much of Sunday and did not know until the evening that Arizona State fired Herm Edwards as the football program’s head coach. Gonzales had worked at ASU as a defensive coordinator and assistant head coach for two seasons before taking his first head coaching job at his alma mater before the 2020 season.

Gonzales said on Sunday he would decline any interest ASU would show after being asked about a hypothetical situation.

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