UNM defenders pick up Mountain West honors - Albuquerque Journal

UNM defenders pick up Mountain West honors

UNM linebacker Reco Hannah returns an interception for a touchdown during Saturday’s 27-10 victory over UTEP. (Chancey Bush/Journal)

With a defense causing seven turnovers in a 27-10 win over UTEP on Saturday, there were plenty of stars for the University of New Mexico football team (2-1).

Two of them — senior linebacker Reco Hannah and freshman safety A.J. Haulcy — were recognized by the Mountain West Conference on Monday.

Hannah, who had three tackles, one pick-six and one forced fumble, was named defensive player of the week. Haulcy, who added two tackles, one interception and one memorable forced fumble, was tabbed as freshman of the week.

Hannah’s first career interception and touchdown came off a Jerrick Reed II pass break-up (one of four for the senior safety), and Hannah took UTEP Gavin Hardison’s pass 22 yards to the house for a 10-0 Lobos lead.

“I was kind of surprised when the ball flipped in the air,” Hannah said after the game. “I just said: ‘Reco, go get it. Help this team out and let’s get some points on the board. Let’s get some momentum going.’ My eyes got kind of big. It was great.”

Hannah, from Wedowee, Alabama, is playing his final season. He gained a medical redshirt after sustaining a knee injury last year in his super senior season, the extra eligibility year gained from the coronavirus-shortened 2020 season.

Hannah’s overall play really stood out after watching the game on Sunday, UNM coach Danny Gonzales said during his weekly radio spot on the Opening Drive on 610 AM, before the MW announcement was made.

“Reco Hannah was unbelievable,” Gonzales said. “He obviously had the pick-six, but he was everywhere. He made a bunch of plays. He created plays for other guys. UTEP had a hard time blocking him. He was unbelievable in pass coverage.”

Haulcy, who played for Fort Bend Marshall High in Missouri City, Texas, said he made a lot of plays in high school, but none as the big one he made early in the third quarter against the Miners. With the Lobos leading 20-3, Haulcy chased UTEP wide receiver Tyrin Smith 76 yards. The freshman safety got to Smith just before the goal line and chopped at the ball, which came out and hit the pylon for a touchback.

Last year, UNM lost at UTEP, 20-13 after leading 10-3 at halftime.

Haulcy also displayed athleticism by keeping his feet inbounds before making his interception in front of UTEP’s sideline. He had offers from Kansas and Louisiana-Lafayette before committing to UNM, and 247 Sports rated him a 3-star defensive back.

He plays mostly at the Lobo safety position in UNM’s 3-3-5 scheme, a spot that is usually manned by junior Tavian Combs.

Combs might miss some time after sustaining a knee injury, Gonzales said.

“If Tavian misses time, I’m just ready to step up,” Haulcy said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time. That’s what I came here for. I came to play. With the defense, I feel like they have my back so I’ll be ready.”

UNM had seven takeaways for the first time in 36 years against the Miners. The Lobos head to Baton Rouge for their first road game of the year against 30½-point favorite LSU.

UNLV’s Aidan Robbins was the MW offensive player of the week. Boise State kicker Jonah Dalmas was named the special teams player of the week.

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