PITTSBURGH – It was never like this back at Katy High School.
Isaiah Brown, a 5-foot-10, 180-pound true freshman cornerback forthe University of New Mexico, played for an unbeaten (16-0) state high school championship team at Katy – a Houston suburb – last season. In fact, Brown now has experienced twice as many losses as a Lobo as he did the past two seasons as a Tiger.
How, then, did Brown react to sitting in the visitors’ locker room at Heinz Field, his team trailing 35-6?
“It was tough at first,” Brown said after the Lobos’ eventual 49-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Panthers. “But once we realized that it was all our fault, that we were only beating ourselves, it was easy to come out in the second half and put things together.
“It was just a mental reality check for us at halftime.”
The Lobos’ reality, coach Bob Davie says on a weekly basis, is that young players like Brown need to play – regardless of the effect on the scoreboard – if UNM is to mature into a winning program.
Brown’s performance Saturday, it seems, had a positive effect.
With the Lobos trailing 42-6 in the third quarter, true freshman safety Ryan Santos ripped the ball loose from Pittsburgh running back James Conner. Brown made the recovery. The Lobos scored four plays later.
In high school, Brown specialized in takeaways: 10 interceptions and two fumble recoveries for Katy as a senior.
His first takeaway as a Lobo, he said, was one he’ll remember. Not that he’s forgotten any of his 12 last year.
“Any turnover in any game is always an exciting thing,” he said. “It was a great feeling.”
In addition to his fumble recovery, Brown was in on two tackles and teamed with sophomore linebacker Richard Winston to throw Panthers running back Rachid Ibrahim for a 2-yard loss.
Brown and fellow true freshman cornerback Jadon Boatright saw extended action in the second half.
“I think they both got surprised a little bit,” Davie said, “at the physicality of it – those big (Pittsburgh) backs and big receivers.”
Brown wants more, starting with UNM’s home game against UNLV on Sept. 28. The Lobos don’t play this coming Saturday.
“I think this is a real crucial time for our team to get better and come together as a team, as a brotherhood,” Brown said.
“… We’re not gonna take any days off. We’re gonna go hard and give it our all so we can come back against UNLV and hopefully come out with a win.”