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Punter Bojorquez has become weapon for Lobos

Corey Bojorquez’s bio on the University of New Mexico football website states that he’s an ordained minister.

And he sort of is.

Like many others – Bryan Cranston, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Lady Gaga among them – the UNM junior punter applied for and received online ordination from the Universal Life Church.

It was for a special occasion, Bojorquez said with a smile after a Lobos practice this week. In reality, he’s a practicing Roman Catholic with no plans to enter the clergy.

Still somebody up there liked Bojorquez, and the Lobos, last Saturday. On a rainy, breezy night in Honolulu, Bojorquez launched six punts heavenward for an average of 47.2 yards per attempt.

“He by far had his best game,” UNM coach Bob Davie said that night – actually, early Sunday morning Albuquerque time – in a phone interview after the Lobos’ 28-21 victory over Hawaii. “He helped us with field position.”

It was the kind of performance Davie expected from Bojorquez after signing him to a scholarship in February. Last fall at Cerritos College, he was named a junior college first-team All-American after leading all juco punters with a 43.8-yard average.

But early this season, he struggled.

Rather than the clergy, Bojorquez plans eventually to become a mechanic like his father, Ivan. Whether the problem was mechanics, confidence or the elements, the California native averaged just 36.1 yards per punt through UNM’s first four games.

Net punting – punt yardage minus punt returns and touchbacks – was even worse. In UNM’s game at Rutgers, Scarlet Knights return specialist Janarion Grant returned a Bojorquez boot 69 yards for a touchdown and another for 33.

In Game 5 against Boise State, a 49-21 loss, Davie and special teams coach Apollo Wright benched Bojorquez in favor of senior walk-on Sam Gentry after a sliced punt traveled only 18 yards from scrimmage.

“It was definitely tough,” Bojorquez said after a UNM practice this week. “I wasn’t expecting that. … But I didn’t let it bother me.”

Gentry averaged just 35 yards on three attempts, and Bojorquez again was the starter when the Lobos faced Air Force at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas on Oct. 15.

Since then, Bojorquez has found the form he flashed at Cerritos and at Mayfair High School in Lakewood, Calif., just south of his hometown of Bellflower. During the Lobos’ 59-17 rout of Louisiana Monroe on Oct. 22, he punted once for 44 yards.

Then came his sterling performance in Honolulu.

On the Lobos’ first possession of the third quarter, with the game tied at 14, the UNM offense stalled at its own 19-yard line. A booming, 54-yard Bojorquez punt followed by a 7-yard return left the Rainbow Warriors 66 yards from the New Mexico goal line, and Hawaii punted four plays later.

Later in the third quarter, with the score unchanged, Bojorquez hit a 51-yarder that was downed at the Hawaii 7-yard line. Hawaii punted the ball back, and Lobos running back Tyrone Owens broke a 72-yard touchdown run on the ensuing possession.

In the fourth quarter, with the game tied at 21, the Lobos went three-and-out at their 26. A 41-yarder by Bojorquez and a return of minus-1 yard started the ensuing Hawaii drive on the UH 31.

Five plays later, Lobos nickel safety Lee Crosby returned a Hawaii fumble 46 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

In part due to Bojorquez’s contributions, the Lobos are 5-3 on the season entering Saturday’s home game against Nevada.

His early struggles, Bojorquez said, were a combination of adjusting to weather conditions and to the greater intensity of NCAA competition.

“In California, where I’m from, there’s not much wind. So wind has definitely been a factor with me,” he said.

“Now that this (Hawaii) was our eighth game, I’m just kind of getting used to the atmosphere. It’s a lot bigger than junior college. So I think as the season goes on and next season, I should be more comfortable.”

Davie, too, is more comfortable with him – though he’d like to see Bojorquez place his punts better, rather than blasting them straight down the middle of the field.

“He’s getting much more consistent,” Davie said. “… He can be a weapon. He has a lot of talent.”

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