ALBUQUERQUE – The New Mexico Lobos scored 38 points in the second quarter and forced five turnovers overall to definitively defeat visiting Southern University 66-21 Saturday afternoon at Branch Field at University Stadium in the season opener for both teams.
The Lobos scored on their opening possession then turned three consecutive turnovers by the Jaguars into 21 more points on their way to a rout before an announced crowd of 28,450.
"That was about the longest football game I've ever been in," said first-year coach Bob Davie. "That first half I didn't think would ever end. But first of all, I just told our players not to get ahead of ourselves. But the potential of this program...You look at the ways this stadium looked when we walked in there today. The ways those stands looked behind our bench and the fact that nobody left. To me it was a big time atmosphere. And I appreciate that."
It’s hard to overstate UNM’s dominance over its storm-weakened Football Championship Subdivision opponent (Southern’s practice and travel schedule was hampered by Hurrican Issac’s arrival in Louisiana last week.) The Lobos scored on 10 of its 13 offensive possessions in the game, turning over the ball on downs twice in the second half and finishing the game with possession of the ball.
Junior running back Demarcus Rogers rushed for 103 yards on 13 rushes and a touchdown while redhsirt freshaman Jhurrel Pressley added 75 yards on 10 rushes with a touchdown in his first start for the Lobos.
The day turned out to be a coming out party for Pressley and true freshman quarterback Cole Gautsche, who shared snaps with senior starter B.R. Holbrook, ran for two touchdowns – one a 47-yard third quarter run that gave New Mexico a 45-6 lead and virtually iced the game.
"Cole is very smart and he's a great leader," said Davie. "He's strong. He's really a good option quarterback. I'm glad Edling bailed him out on the boot pass where the young freshman tight end one-handed it, so he did complete a pass. He does have to improve in the passing game, as we know, but he's a weapon. You talk about a true freshman walking out there, with the composure he had. He made a lot of checks. I think he played really well."
Pressley started the scoring with a 5-yard run to cap a 6-play, 78-yard drive in the first quarter to give the Lobos a 7-0 lead. Holbrook, who finished 6-of-8 passing for 57 yards and 5 yards on the ground, made the score 14-0 with a 16-yard scoring strike to fellow senior Ty Kirk.
The wheels then began to fall off for Southern when senior linebacker Joseph Harris took advantage of a sack of Jaguars quarterback Dray Joseph by senior lineman Ugo Uzodinmam, returning Joseph’s fumble 16 yards for a touchdown.
The Lobo defense, which added another touchdown late in the third quarter when freshman cornerback Cranston Jones stepped in front of a pass by Joseph and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown, was active forcing 2 sacks and 64 tackles.
"It speaks to the discipline that head coach Bob Davie has installed around here," said linebacker Joe Stoner, speaking of the Lobos’ performance. "There are no foolish mistakes - that's one of our keys to win the game. If our defense jumps offsides or grabs a facemask, it puts our team into a bigger hole. We didn't want to beat ourselves. Lobos don't beat the Lobos."
New Mexico was only flagged once for five yards while Southern was flagged for 10 penalties for 60 yards. The Lobos outgained the Jags 417 yards to 325, mostly on the ground. UNM rolled to 347 yards on 51 carries. Southern managed just 83 yards on the ground but amassed 242 yards on 20-of-34 passing with two interceptions.
UNM even got a touchdown on special teams when sophomore Chase Clayton reeled off a 98-yard touchdown return in the second half, giving the Lobos a 42-6 lead and stealing the momentum that the Jaguars achieved with their first touchdown 20 seconds earlier.
Davie said he talked to his team about the win and keeping the momentum going in the week leading up to their game at the University of Texas next Saturday.
"I talked to them about just acting like a 1-0 football team tonight and go out and represent this football team that's 1-0," said Davie. "Half the teams in the country are 0-1 right now-half of the teams in the country, a 120 some teams. We're one of those teams that's 1-0. So enjoy it. Be smart. I think we proved to some people in the first half of this game that you were a disciplined football team by the way you played."