When a football team runs the triple-option offense, one thing is certain. Your quarterback’s going to get hit.
Sometimes, there are consequences.
Those are facts of life the New Mexico Lobos are coming to know all too well.
Saturday night at University Stadium, during the New Mexico Lobos’ 21-13 loss to Texas-San Antonio, quarterback Cole Gautsche took hit after big hit.
Sunday, UNM coach Bob Davie said Gautsche’s status is doubtful for next Saturday’s game at UTEP after the sophomore quarterback was diagnosed as having concussion symptoms.
“We’ll see how it goes during the week,” Davie said. “He took some shots, he really did. … He probably had three times in the game where he had direct helmet-to-helmet contact.”
If Gautsche is unavailable for the game at UTEP, junior college transfer Clayton Mitchem would get the call.
Against UTSA, with Gautsche having gone to the locker room, Mitchem entered the game with 3 minutes left and the Lobos trailing by the eventual final margin. He completed his first two passes and scrambled for 9 yards, but threw incomplete on his final three throws as the Lobos turned the ball over on downs. Mitchem also was sacked once.
“This week will be about preparing Clayton Mitchem to play,” Davie said. “If Cole plays, that will be a bonus. I really don’t think he will.”
Junior walk-on David Vega, the former Roswell Goddard and New Mexico Military star, is UNM’s No. 3 quarterback. That’s important, since, last year, both Gautsche and senior quarterback B.R. Holbrook missed time with concussions.
ALL ABOUT THE QB: Gautsche had excellent success running against UTSA, finishing with 118 yards on 16 carries – almost all on option keeps.
But that was probably OK with UTSA, Davie said, since star running back Kasey Carrier had minimal success running inside and since the Roadrunners consistently denied Gautsche the opportunity to pitch the ball.
Gautsche, meanwhile, was generally unproductive in the passing game: 4-of-12 for 65 yards. He did throw a 37-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Marquis Bundy and did not have an interception, though one potential gift interception was dropped.
“I think it was a case of UTSA trying to make our quarterback beat them,” Davie said. “They were going to take away the dive (the run between the tackles), and they were going to take away the pitch. It was the quarterback running the ball and the quarterback throwing the ball that was going to have to beat them.”
Davie said UTSA’s defensive game plan might have been borrowed from Colorado State, which used similar strategy while beating the Lobos 24-20 in the 2012 season finale.
CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE: Davie said losing to UTSA, a team in its first season as a full-fledged member of the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, was disappointing but by no means a disgrace.
In fact, he said, he believes the Lobos actually played better – given the caliber of the opposition – against the Roadrunners than they did while routing Southern 66-21 in last year’s season opener.
“People may find this kind of strange, ” he said, “but I think our overall performance (Saturday) was probably better than it was a year ago. We were disappointed in some things, but, top to bottom, we made some progress.”
Of UTSA, he said: “That’s a pretty good team. … Just because they haven’t been playing football for a long time didn’t mask what they looked like on tape and how they played.
“Give them credit (for) keeping us off balance, excellent play-calling. You can tell they’ve been together a long time.”
GRADING THE O-LINE: After Saturday’s game, in light of a disappointing performance in the running game, Davie was asked whether the UNM offensive line had missed some assignments.
Sunday, after viewing game film, Davie said no.
Missed blocks? Yes.
“I think, because of expectations, it’s fair to say our offensive line didn’t play as well as we’d hoped they’d play,” he said.
“We missed some different blocks on different occasions. It wasn’t one guy missing a bunch of blocks; it was different guys missing blocks at different times. … It was an eye-opener for us.”
GRADING THE ‘D’: The UNM defense held UTSA in check for most of the first half, but then gave up scoring drives of 75, 75 and 99 yards.
Davie noted that the Lobos’ offense failed to control the time of possession – always a stated goal – and left the defense on the field too long.
“There’s reason for optimism on defense,” he said. “We had some positives. … I thought there were some big hits. I thought there was some aggressive play.”