Tonight, at least, the Devils are not in the details. Or vice versa.
This one, coach Bob Davie says, is all about the Lobos.
Year 4 of the Davie Era begins tonight at University Stadium with a college football game between the New Mexico Lobos and the Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils.
The visitors, Davie said this week, are a bit of a mystery.
Second-year MVSU coach Rick Comegy has new coordinators on offense and defense. On defense in particular, this is a young Delta Devils team.
Davie, his assistants and his players nevertheless have done their homework – viewing game film not only from last year’s MVSU team but from Jackson State and Paine College, the two coordinators’ last coaching addresses.
And yet, Davie said, all that barely matters.
“I think there’s never been a more clear example of the focus being totally on your own team and how we execute,” he said.
The sketchiness of the information UNM has been able to gather about the Delta Devils’ intentions, Davie said, is a positive in a sense. If game-time adjustments must be made tonight, it won’t be the last time that happens this fall.
“There’s gonna be a lot of twists and turns throughout the season,” he said, “and (tonight’s game) gives us an opportunity, really, to go out there and see some guys when they get off script.”
Comegy, who’s in his 24th year as a college head coach, believes he’s already read that script. This is a money game for his program, a payday of $360,000 for what past form suggests will be a shellacking on the field.
The Delta Devils were 2-9 last season and were picked in the Southwestern Athletic Conference’s 2015 preseason poll to finish last in the SWAC’s Eastern Division. They compete in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, a rung below the Football Bowl Subdivision in which UNM plays.
New Mexico was 4-8 last year, but the Lobos’ principal strength – the running game – plays into an MVSU weakness.
“I’ve been trying to get our guys mentally prepared for this fight,” Comegy told the Greenwood (Miss.) Commonwealth. “This is a real tough game. (The Lobos) play good, hard football.”
Good, hard football is clearly not enough for an Albuquerque fan base that’s been waiting for the payoff since Davie took over an absolutely horrendous program in 2012. As of the close of business Friday, about 19,300 tickets – less than half of capacity at University Stadium – had been sold.
Davie said he doesn’t merely sympathize with the public’s wait-and-see attitude. He empathizes.
Preseason camp, he has said repeatedly, was productive on a daily basis. The players, he said, have totally and enthusiastically bought in. Four recruiting classes into his tenure, there’s more talent and more depth on the roster than in past years.
But Davie works in a results-driven profession, and the Lobos are 11-26 during his tenure.
“I know we can compete,” he said. “We’re past the stage of, ‘Are we competitive or not.’
“It’s ‘Can we go win? Can we go win?’ That’s the next step of this.”
The next step for redshirt sophomore quarterback Lamar Jordan is consistency at a high level.
“I’m like, be great, be great, be great,” Jordan said. “… You’ve got to be great. That’s how you go undefeated. That’s how you make it to the championship game.”
The New Mexico team that takes the field tonight will be significantly different in style and scheme than the Lobos of the past three seasons.
On defense, they’ve switched from a 3-4 base alignment to a more flexible and adaptable 3-3-5, with a safety replacing the “sam” linebacker.
On offense, the Lobos have gone almost exclusively to an up-tempo, no-huddle system. And, whether the quarterback was Jordan or junior transfer Austin Apodaca, the passing game during August showed dramatic improvement.
“I can’t wait to show you,” Jordan said. “… It’s just about this passing game. Of course we’re gonna run the triple (option), but the passing game is what I can’t wait to showcase.”
In any case, the show begins tonight.