The New Mexico Lobos began 2018 with hope. Hope that the team could put the nightmare 2017 season behind them. What happened seemed to be a bad case of deja by.
The 2017 campaign ended with seven consecutive loses. Attendance dwindled close to all time lows. Mid season allegations against head coach Bob Davie created a distraction and eventually a suspension this past season offseason.
Needless to say the Lobos were looking forward to getting 2018 underway.
They began with a bang; winning two of their first three games. In week one they pummeled Incarnate Word 62-30. Two weeks later they beat in state rival New Mexico State 42-25. Those wins were sandwiched around a 45-14 loss at Wisconsin. In the New Mexico State game Sheriron Jones got his first start at quarterback as Tevaka Tuioti had been injured against Wisconsin.
Tuioti returned against Liberty for homecoming. The Lobos in that game were stunned in the first half. Tuioti would break his collarbone and be lost for the season. The Lobos then saw Liberty take a 42-10 halftime lead. Jones tried to rally the Lobos but UNM fell short at 52-43. Ending the out of conference portion of the season at 2-2.
The Lobos were able to put the loss to Liberty behind them, opening Mountain West play by crushing UNLV 50-14. That win brought the Lobos to a record of 3-2; exactly how they had started 2017. There seemed to be new hope around the team after the UNLV game. Then came a road trip to Fort Collins.
In the Colorado State game, the offense, which had been prolific previously (scoring 40 or more in four of the first five games) was held in check for the better part of three quarters. Then late in the third, trailing 14-3, the offense came to life for a bit.
The Lobos capped a long drive with a touchdown and a two point conversion to cut the lead to 14-11. Colorado State then kicked a field goal in the 4th to make it 17-11. Then UNM’s Marcus Hayes returned a punt deep into Rams territory. The Lobos capitalized on that and punched it in again to take an 18-17 lead. Colorado State was then able to drive deep into UNM territory, but were held short of the goal line and settled for a short field goal try. The try went wide, and the Lobos took over with less than three minutes to go. All UNM had to do was pick up one first down and they would’ve escaped with the win.
On first and second down the Lobos ran the ball for short gains, forcing the Rams to use their timeouts. That set up a 3rd down and 7. Jones’ pass attempt fell incomplete, forcing the Lobos to punt with still over two minutes to play.
On that ensuing drive the Lobos helped the Rams with a pass interference penalty and poor tackling on another pass play. The Rams drove it down and inside the Lobos 10 yard line and set up for another field goal try. This one split the uprights as time expired giving the Rams the win.
The loss seemed to take the wind out of the sails for the Lobos and they never recovered. They lost the next game against Fresno State, 38-7, and then were flat out embarrassed by Utah State the following game, 61-19. The Lobos trailed in that game 52-5 at halftime. Then to compound matters, after the game at a party back in Albuquerque, linebacker Evahelotu Tohi got into a fight with teammate David Brown sending him to a local hospital. Tohi was suspended the rest of the season.
The Lobos season didn’t get any better from there. The offense sputtered every week and the defense gave up yards and points by the bunches. The Lobos ended with a seven game losing streak, just like 2017, finished 3-9, just like 2017. Home crowds dwindled to just above 5,000, just like 2017. It was the nightmare all over.
After the season there was plenty of speculation on the future of Bob Davie as the head coach of UNM. Athletic Director Eddie Nunez put those thoughts to rest as he announced that Davie would return for the 2019 season.
Given the financial situation for UNM it made sense to bring back Davie. However, don’t expect the staff to survive another 3-9 season.
There were positives this season. The Lobos did beat New Mexico State, which is always a good thing no matter the end of season record. Aaron Jones set a school record by playing in his 51st career game. And Marcus Hayes returned a punt for a touchdown, the first for New Mexico since 2002.
Looking at 2019 the Lobos do have many winnable games on the schedule. They will return a core of players that got a ton of playing experience this season, and many in the MWC will be in rebuild mode. Next season on paper looks like it could be a good one, and hopefully close the door on back to back rough seasons.