There’s an old saying, “Spring forward, fall back,” that helps us remember which way to reset our various timepieces when switching from daylight saving to standard time and vice versa.
When the New Mexico Lobos roll out of their beds Sunday morning after their flight home from the West Coast, will they have sprung forward in their quest for a strong finish to the 2013 season – or fallen back?
There’s another old saying, specific to college football: “They remember November.”
Will the Lobos’ November be one to remember – or another to forget?
New Mexico (2-5 overall, 0-3 in Mountain West Conference play) faces San Diego State (3-4, 2-1) tonight at Qualcomm Stadium. The Aztecs, coached by former UNM coach Rocky Long, are favored by approximately two touchdowns.
The Lobos, humbled in a 45-10 drubbing at the hands of Utah State on Oct. 19, have had two weeks to heal not only their physical bruises but their emotional ones.
“The good news,” Lobos coach Bob Davie said this week, “is we’ve got five football games in November. We’ve got a chance to finish better than we started.”
That didn’t happen last year, Davie’s first at UNM. The Lobos entered November with a 4-5 record, still with high hopes for a winning season and a bowl bid, but went 0-4 thereafter.
Sophomore wide receiver Carlos Wiggins said he and his teammates aren’t thinking about last year, or even the last game – that sobering rout at the hands of Utah State.
“It’s behind us,” Wiggins said. “We’re looking at San Diego State, and that’s all that’s on our minds. We’re playing for this week.”
Long-held hopes and dreams die hard. As improbable as it may seem, Wiggins said the Lobos aren’t letting go of their stated goal: at least six wins and a bowl bid.
“We won’t give up,” he said. “… The critics can keep talking, but we just go hard and play as if we’re going to a bowl.”
November has been cruel to the Lobos the past five years, though it’s not as if the other autumn months have been kind.
Still, in college football, the strong tend to get stronger as the season progresses. Long, who started the Lobos’ current November doldrums with an 0-3 record for the month in his final season (2008) at New Mexico, was 6-1 in November during his first two years as SDSU’s head coach.
And the Aztecs enter this November an improved team. After an 0-3 start, they’ve won three of four and took 16th-ranked Fresno State to overtime last week before losing 35-28.
“It’s a tough, tough, physical team,” Davie said. “(On offense) they’re going to line up and block you. … On defense, they’re an attacking team.”
The Lobos were manhandled by Utah State, and Davie said San Diego State is physically “in the same ballpark” as the Aggies.
“They’ve got some big, explosive players,” he said. “Defensively, they’re not quite as big (as Utah State), but they’re every bit as explosive.”
If the Lobos couldn’t handle Utah State from a physical standpoint, how will they manage against the Aztecs?
“Mistake-free, that’s the biggest thing,” UNM senior center Dillon Farrell said, speaking for the offense. The Lobos, ranked third in the nation in yards rushing per game, were held to 160 yards and an average gain of less than 4 yards against Utah State.
On defense, the Lobos gave up 492 yards against Utah State. San Diego State struggled on offense early this season but amassed 507 yards against Fresno State.
Whatever the statistics and the clocks might say, Davie said, the calendar says it’s early – in November, anyway.
“It’s about finishing the season,” he said, “and remembering how we finish.”