The University of New Mexico and UNLV football teams share some similarities, as each has a third-year coach.
Both are in their first head coaching position of their respective careers, and both carry a youthful swagger. But the foundation of philosophies for the Lobos’ Danny Gonzales and the Rebels’ Marcus Arroyo are quite different.
Gonzales, who played safety for UNM (1995-98), is a defensive-minded coach, having learned from the great minds of Rocky Long and Bronco Mendenhall. Arroyo, a former San Jose State quarterback, was a big part of some high-powered offenses at Oklahoma State and Oregon.
Arroyo would like to see his powerful running back Aidan Robbins take control of a key Mountain West Conference matchup on Friday night, when the Lobos (2-2, 0-1) play the Rebels (3-1, 1-0) at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. Robbins, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior transfer from Louisville, is second in the league in rushing with 427 yards and seven touchdowns.
UNM, meanwhile, is all about stopping the run. Gonzales said he is very excited to see his defense go up against the Rebels, who are favored by 14½.
“I think it’s a great matchup,” Gonzales said. “I think we have players in the secondary who are aggressive, and I think they have something to prove after Saturday. They’ve had to listen to me tell them they ain’t good enough all the past couple of days of what happened (at LSU, a 38-0 UNM loss). I don’t believe they believe that. And they shouldn’t. They should look at me like I’m crazy.”
Arroyo said he’s very familiar with the Lobos’ defensive scheme and defensive coordinator Rocky Long.
Arroyo played quarterback at San Jose State 1998-2002.
“I remember it was Brian Urlacher lining up against me for 60 minutes,” Arroyo said during his press conference on Monday. “It was awful. I don’t think he ever came off the field. He just backed up on the field and returned the punt, too. Like he was on for all 150 plays. This defense is predicated on (stopping the run). They’ve designed it inside and out. (Long is) one of the godfathers of the defense. They do a fantastic job stopping the run.”
The Rebels are coming off a 34-24 win at Utah State, the defending league champ. Arroyo said it’s a type of game UNLV would have lost last year when they went 2-10. Last season, they had six losses by a one-score margin (eight points or less).
DEBUT: UNM freshman safety Christian Ellis, from White High in Jacksonville, Florida, will make his season debut at UNLV. He was an early graduate who was performing well during the spring, but he sustained a pectoral injury that caused him to miss all of preseason camp and the first four games of the season.
He was cleared for full-contact practice on Sunday, Gonzales said. Ellis could see some time on special teams, Gonzales said.
OFFER: Dorian Lewis, a former Cleveland High running back who is playing for Coffeyville Community College in Kansas, has received an offer from the Lobos, Lewis tweeted on Thursday. Lewis had an offer from UNM upon graduating from Cleveland in 2020, but instead chose to play for Coffeyville. He has rushed for 549 yards in 18 games.