Reaching roughshod proportions took a while, perhaps longer than desired. But, ultimately, the New Mexico Lobos took roughshod and ran with it.
Passed with it, too.
The Lobos, rolling up 615 yards of total offense, drubbed South Dakota 48-21 night in both teams’ college football opener at University Stadium on Thursday night.
A crowd announced at 20,221, barely half the stadium’s capacity, attended the weeknight game.
Lobos coach Bob Davie called the game a qualified success, with greater challenges to come.
“We talked all week about how all we need to be (Thursday) was the best team in the stadium,” he said. “We don’t have to win them all tonight.
“I think that message, the team handled pretty well.”
As expected, the Lobos dominated a South Dakota team that competes in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision — a notch below UNM.
But, despite a 75-yard touchdown run by senior running back Teriyon Gipson on the game’s first play from scrimmage, the Lobos had some shaky moments early on.
After Gipson’s run, South Dakota quarterback Chris Streveler scored on runs of 55 and 42 yards. In between, a fumble by running back Richard McQuarley killed a UNM drive that reached the Coyotes 6-yard line.
New Mexico, however, tied it at 14 on an 84-yard scamper by Gipson, who finished with 181 yards on eight carries.
“That’s a perfect way you want to start out your senior year,” Gipson said. “But you’ve got to give thanks to the O-line. They made a big hole, and I just followed my keys and ran through the hole.”
The Lobos went on to build a 38-14 third-quarter lead and were never threatened thereafter.
The UNM defense, seemingly awakened by Streveler’s two first-quarter touchdowns, took charge from there. After amassing 181 yards of total offense in the first quarter, South Dakota managed just 142 the rest of the way.
Davie and senior linebacker Dakota Cox said there was no real consternation on the sideline after Streveler’s two touchdown runs. An adjustment was needed, since the Lobos had expected Coyotes senior Ryan Saeger to start at quarterback.
“It’s really such a mature defense,” said Cox, who finished with a sack, two tackles for loss, a forced fumble, an interception and a team-high 14 tackles. “… We just focused on doing our job and settled in. From there on out, the defense was working like it’s supposed to.”
Then, aided by a Coyotes muff of a left-footed Corey Bojorquez punt, UNM scored on drives of 74, 46 and 63 yards.
On the first, senior quarterback Austin Apodaca hit sophomore Matt Quarells for a 62-yard TD. After junior running back Richard McQuarley scored from 4 yards out, redshirt freshman wide receiver Q’ Drennan made his first college reception a memorable one — leaping to snare an Apodaca pass inside the South Dakota 5-yard line and finding his way into the end zone.
Apodaca started the game, which was not a major surprise. But it was a surprise that junior Lamar Jordan, who started 12 games last year, did not play. Redshirt sophomore JaJuan Lawson played at quarterback in the fourth quarter with the game in hand.
Davie said the decision not to play Jordan was simply a response to “the flow of the game.”
Apodaca was 12-of-16 passing for 172 yards and two touchdowns. He also had 52 yards rushing, minus 11 yards on sacks.
“I felt comfortable going through my reads, and, honestly just playing football like I do every day,” Apodaca said.
The Lobos finished the first half with 426 yards total offense, more than they rolled up in the entirety of nine games last season.
REMEMBRANCES: The Lobos’ new white helmets featured a decal in the image of former UNM safety Markel Byrd, who was killed in a car crash in late December.
Byrd’s jersey number 22 also was embossed at the 22-yard line on both sides and at each end of the field.
Also embossed on the field were black ribbons in memory of Albuquerque attorney and longtime UNM athletics benefactor Turner Branch, who died recently.