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UNM Football: D-Coordinator will not return

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — When a college football defense bleeds yards and points on a continuing basis and in historic fashion, someone’s likely to get cut.
For the New Mexico Lobos, that person is defensive coordinator Jeff Mills.
Saturday, UNM head coach Bob Davie confirmed online reports that Mills will not return next season.
“I appreciate the contribution Jeff made to Lobo football as we continue to rebuild this program,” Davie said in a news release. “Jeff is one of the smartest and hardest-working coaches I have ever been around. I wish him well and know he will continue to have success in college football.”
Mills, reached by the Journal through social media, declined comment.
This season, the Lobos ranked near the bottom of the NCAA Football Subdivision’s statistics in virtually every defensive category: 120th (of 123 teams) in rushing defense, 118th in scoring defense, 119th in total defense, 123rd and last in pass efficiency defense.
Mills also was UNM’s defensive-backs coach.
In all but one of those categories, UNM ranked 12th and last in the Mountain West Conference.
New Mexico finished the season with a 3-9 record, 1-7 in Mountain West play.
The Lobos twice gave up more than 60 points in a game, three times allowed more than 50 points and six times permitted more than 40. On Nov. 23, Fresno State lit up the Lobos for 69 points and 820 yards total offense — the latter figure the most a UNM team had given up in a single game.
As Davie repeatedly pointed out during the season, the unit Mills had to work with was painfully young. In the Nov. 30 season finale at Boise State (a 45-17 defeat), seven freshmen played on defense for UNM. Three more defensive players were in their first year of Division I college football at their positions. A fourth, junior college transfer defensive end Brett Bowers, missed the Boise State game with a knee injury. Late in the season, injuries took a severe toll on Mills’ defense.
Mills had done considerably better in 2012, his first season at UNM, with a more experienced unit. That year, in those same categories, the Lobos ranked in the 100s only in pass efficiency defense.
None of that, apparently, was enough to save Mills’ job — “will not return,” as phrased in UNM’s news release, being a college athletics euphemism for “fired.”
When Mills arrived at UNM, he already was familiar with the highs and lows of his chosen profession.
As a graduate assistant at Washington in 1991, he was part of a team that went 12-0 and won a national championship. In 2011, as Washington’s secondary coach, he was fired after Baylor and quarterback Robert Griffin III strafed the Huskies’ defense for 67 points and 777 yards.
“I was born into this profession,” he told the Journal in March 2012, noting that his father and brother were coaches. “I was brought up in this profession, and I understand that decisions are made.”
Mills, 49, just completed his 27th year of college coaching. He has worked at eight schools.