'Pancake' game gives Lobo football hope in return to Air Force - Albuquerque Journal

‘Pancake’ game gives Lobo football hope in return to Air Force

More carbs? For the New Mexico football Lobos, is that the key to beating Air Force on Saturday and snapping a six-game losing streak?
If only. Still …
On the morning of Oct. 21, 2000, the Lobos gathered in the lobby of their team hotel in Colorado Springs — to discover that the chef assigned to prepare their pregame breakfast was a no-show.
Dave Binder, UNM’s head trainer, wasn’t about to let the Lobos face the Air Force Falcons on empty stomachs. Invading the hotel kitchen, raiding the fridge and lighting the stove, he whipped up a pancake breakfast for a party of 65 (or so).
Later that morning — kickoff was at 10 a.m. at the Academy — the underdog but carbohydrate-infused Lobos jumped to a 29-7 halftime lead. The Falcons rallied, but the Lobos held on for a 29-23 victory.
Danny Gonzales, now UNM’s third-year head coach, was a Lobos graduate assistant back then. This week, 22 years and zero UNM victories at Air Force later, Gonzales told the above story not because it’s a fond remembrance (it is), but because he’s hoping his 2022 Lobos can learn from it.
“The whole point behind (the story) was just the adversity,” he said. Chef’s a no-show? No problem. Air Force comes back? We got this.
So far in 2022, pancakes or no pancakes, the story line has been sadly different.
Three times during the current losing streak, most recently last Saturday at Utah State, the Lobos (2-7, 0 -5 Mountain West Conference, 21½-point underdogs vs. Air Force) have led at halftime but lost. Twice more, they trailed by deficits of one point and seven — and lost. Ultimately, not one of those games was close, thanks to a moribund offense and crucial mistakes on both sides of the ball.
“We should have a positive record right now,” senior offensive guard Isaak Gutierrez said this week. “But it’s on us. It all comes down to us (not) being accountable and not coming out in the second half playing like we need to play.”
Certainly, the Lobos’ record could, perhaps should, be better than it is. At the same time, the record as it is paints a realistic picture of who they’ve been thus far. A team that ranks 131st of 131 NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense isn’t likely to win a lot of games, even with a solid (41st-ranked) defense.
“Obviously, we are not good enough on offense,” Gonzales said, adding he’s already making plans to address that situation in 2023.
In the here and now, he’s hoping his defense can at least slow down Air Force’s nation-leading ground game. And he’s hoping the Lobos’ 125th-ranked passing game can stretch the Falcons’ ninth-ranked defense enough to provide lanes for running back Nate Jones.
Gonzales said on KKOB radio Thursday night that wide receiver Geordon Porter, who has missed all but a few plays since the UNLV game on Sept. 30, is sufficiently recovered from a heel bruise to play effectively on Saturday. Porter has the Lobos’ two longest pass receptions of the season.
Sophomore quarterback Justin Holaday is 15-of-34 passing for just 79 yards and no touchdowns in his two starts since replacing senior Miles Kendrick. But fierce winds and some drops by his receivers in Logan, Utah, afforded him little chance to succeed there.
Saturday’s forecast in Colorado Springs calls for light breezes and temperatures in the mid- to high 40s; the other thing is up to his receivers.
In both of his starts, Holaday displayed running ability that, in tandem with Jones, produced 216 yards rushing at Utah State.
“He’s a good athlete,” sophomore wide receiver Luke Wysong said of Holaday. “He knows how to make moves in the open field.”
Last year against Air Force at University Stadium, the Lobos gave up 408 yards rushing in a 38-10 loss.
If this season’s much-improved UNM defense can’t greatly reduce that number this time around, and if the Lobos can’t avoid ill-timed errors, the Falcons almost certainly will win their 10th straight over the Lobos at Falcons Stadium since the 2000 Pancake Bowl.

SATURDAY: New Mexico at Air Force, 1:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network, 770 AM/96.3 FM

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