The New Mexico football Lobos, once again outmanned and once again hurting themselves with crucial mistakes, fell 34-10 on Friday to the San Diego State Aztecs at cold, desolate University Stadium.
The Lobos, 2-9, 0-7 in Mountain West play and losers of eight straight, have one game and one win opportunity left: next Friday at Colorado State (2-8, 2-4 entering their game Saturday against Air Force).
Attendance was announced Friday as 14,309, but far fewer were actually in the stands as temperatures hovered in the low 30s.
The Lobos managed just 209 yards total offense, 30 yards fewer than their average through their first 10 games. They rank 131st and last in that category among NCAA Football Subdivision teams.
New Mexico has scored two touchdowns in its last five games.
“Offensively, it’s the same old story,” Lobos coach Danny Gonzales said. “We’ve got to fix that side of the ball and score some points.”
As has been their pattern most of the season, the Lobos were competitive for most of the first half.
After the Aztecs (7-4, 5-2) broke on top with a 51-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Mayden to an uncovered Mekhi Shaw, a 51-yard Nate Jones run set up a 6-yard TD run by UNM quarterback CJ Montes.
A 63-yard Mayden-to-Tyrell Shavers pass set up a 1-yard Jaylon Armstead TD, putting SDSU back ahead 14-7 early in the second quarter.
Then, special teams disaster: a UNM punt snap hit one of the punt protectors, setting up the Aztecs with a first down at the UNM 26. Shaw scored on a 30-yard pass from Mayden.
Gonzales said punter Aaron Rodriguez was intending to execute a rugby punt. “The left shield moved a little bit too soon and the ball hit him in the gut,” Gonzales said. “Those are silly mistakes that kill you when you give them the ball at the 30-yard line.”
Montes, who started for the Lobos in place of Justin Holaday (knee injury), engineered a 53-yard drive that resulted in a 39-yard Luke Drzewiecki field goal, making the score 21-10 at halftime.
Montes said he’d known since Tuesday that he would start against San Diego State. Holaday had slipped on a muddy spot in practice and hyperextended his knee, Gonzales said, and wasn’t able to play.
“I always prepare like I’m gonna play anyway,” Montes said. “… I thought I did OK, since it was my first start since last year. I think you see progression, and that’s all that matters. Getting better every year, every game.”
Gonzales said Holaday is the likely starter at Colorado State if his condition improves sufficiently.
On the first drive of the second half, SDSU running back Kenon Christon swept right end for 49 yards and a touchdown on a fourth-and-1 play. The UNM defense stayed stout thereafter, limiting the Aztecs to two field goals, but the offense produce no more points.
Montes finished 15-of-23 passing for 112 yards with an interception. Jones led UNM with 68 yards on eight carries.
Safety and departing senior Jerrick Reed II had an outstanding game for UNM on defense, with 15 tackles and an interception of a Mayden pass in the end zone.
“It feels great,” Reed said. “It’s the last game that I’ll get to play here at the University of New Mexico, and I wanted to go out with a bang. I want to be remembered for doing great things around here, playing my heart out no matter what the end result is gonna be.”
San Diego State finished with 458 yards total offense. Too many of those, Gonzales, came on big plays: passes of 51 and 63 yards, a run of 49.
The rifle-armed Mayden finished 15-of-25 passing for 280 yards, two touchdowns and the Reed interception. Christon, a junior from San Diego, led the Aztecs’ rushers with 102 yards on 10 carries.
Aztecs senior running back Jordan Byrd, a former Manzano standout, was held to 12 yards on nine carries. He returned one kickoff for 27 yards and two punts for 8 yards.
San Diego State senior defensive end Keshawn Banks, a Rio Rancho graduate, had two tackles on the night.
FLASHBACK: A superior opponent and crucial New Mexico mistakes combine to hand the Lobos a 34-10 defeat at the hands of the San Diego State Aztecs on a frigid Friday night at University Stadium.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: As they have in most of their nine losses, the Lobos (2-9, 0-7 Mountain West Conference) hung in pretty well in the first half. Nate Jones broke a 53-yard run, setting up a 6-yard TD run by backup QB CJ Montes (subbing for an injured Justin Holaday). Montes had some good moments, notably going 6-for-8 in setting up a Luke Drzewiecki field goal at the end of the first half. Safety Jerrick Reed II made his final game at University Stadium a memorable one, making 15 tackles, two tackles for loss, and staving off an Aztecs score with an interception in the end zone. With the glaring exception of three plays totaling 163 yards, the defense was actually pretty solid.
WHAT WENT WRONG: After totaling 155 yards in the first half, the Lobos managed just 54 in the second — failing to score in the second half and running only 16 plays as the Aztecs pulled away. Coverage busts in the young UNM secondary resulted in SDSU touchdown passes of 51 and 30 yards. A special-teams glitch on an attempted punt gave the Aztecs the ball at the UNM 26-yard line, quickly resulting in a second-quarter SDSU touchdown. Montes threw an interception in the second quarter and threw several passes away, failing to find a receiver in the face of the Aztecs pass rush. Lobos coach Danny Gonzales said Montes failed to see open receivers on a few occasions. Friday’s crowd was announced as 14,309, a figure that includes a multitude of unused season tickets. Actual chilled fannies in the seats totaled far less.
INJURY REPORT: None was observed.
QUOTING DANNY: “Obviously, our second half has been horrendous. We haven’t made adjustments. … You’ve got to be able to score points. You’re not gonna win games scoring 10 points a game. You’re just not. Nobody in this country can win games scoring 10 points a game. It’s not good enough. Offenses are too good.”