Seems like just yesterday that Bob Davie was standing on the field at DreamStyle Stadium, holding up the clay pot trophy given out to the winners of the New Mexico Bowl. Davie’s squad had just finished off a 9-4 season, just the second time since 1982 that the Lobos had won nine or more games. It had the feeling of a corner being turned by the program after Davie had taken over a program that had fallen to 3-33 in the previous three seasons prior to him getting there.
However, since that cold and windy December day in Albuquerque, the program has taken a sharp nosedive. The Lobos have gone 3-9 in back-to-back seasons. There has been controversy that has embroiled Davie. Attendance has dwindled. Many fans called for Davie’s job at the end of last season, an ending that saw the Lobos get outscored 76-17 in the final two contests combined.
Davie is back for another season, despite those fans’ protests. This seems to be a pivotal season in the career at UNM for Davie. It all but seems that if Davie doesn’t reach a bowl game this season, the Lobos may be on the market for a new coach for 2020.
Giving Hope: The Lobos lost last season’s offensive coordinator, Calvin McGee, to Ole Miss this offseason. McGee’s spread style of offense was brought into Albuquerque for the 2018 season to shake things up a bit on the offensive side of the ball for Davie and Co. The team had been a dominate run team for many seasons under Davie. However, in order to stay ever evolving, Davie decided it was time to spread it out. McGee might have left but the offense will remain the same; the Lobos hired Joe Dailey as the new offensive coordinator. Dailey ran the spread at Liberty, as he was the offensive coordinator of the Flames from 2016 until 2018. In fact, his Flames came into Albuquerque last season and beat UNM 52-43.
Dailey’s offense in 2018 was 35th in scoring. The Lobos were 87th. Liberty’s 2018 offense was 46th in the country in total offense per game, the Lobos were 120th. So, on paper at least, this seems to be an improvement on how the spread is run.
On top of that the Lobos will return some key players on offense that are used to running the spread already. Tevaka Tuioti and Sheriron Jones both return at quarterback, giving the offense a capable quarterback no matter who starts under center. Either one will have Jay Griffin IV and Elijah Lilly returning as receivers this season.
Cause for Concern: The Lobos will have to find a replacement in the backfield for Tyrone Owens, who was a three-year starter for UNM. The most obvious choice will be Daevon Vigilant. DV had 185 yards on 43 carries last season, including 67 yards on 12 carries against Air Force, which was his season high.
One to Keep an Eye On: Special attention will be focused on Jay Griffin IV, Elijah Lilly, and Q’Drennan this season by the opposition. One player that might sneak up on teams will be Ahmari Davis. Davis surprised New Mexico State last season with 21 carries 74 yards and four touchdowns in the win. Davis saw action in just eight games last season but expect the speedy back to get more touches in Dailey’s system, especially in space where he can do a lot of damage.
Giving Hope: It might be a bit of an understatement that for the majority of games in Bob Davie’s tenure at UNM the defense has struggled. Even during their 9-4 2016 season the Lobos still allowed 31.5 points per game, which ranked 89th of 128 Football Bowl Subdivision teams that season. To counteract their struggles, Davie has made wholesale changes on that side of the ball. Jordan Peterson is now the defensive coordinator and added Dillon Sanders and Dan Carrel to coach the linebackers. Sanders comes over from Kentucky where he worked closely with Josh Allen, who became the 7th overall pick in this year’s NFL draft. Carrel comes from Houston where he coached Emeke Egbule, who ended up being drafted by the Los Angeles Chargers.
This should be a major boost to a position that has been up and down for the Lobos during Davie’s time in Albuquerque. Who this will help the most is Alex Hart, the Senior who is coming off a knee injury last season, but was third on the Lobos in tackles in 2017.
Cause for Concern: The Lobos 2019 schedule isn’t an easy one to say the least looking from the defensive perspective. UNM will travel to Notre Dame and Boise State, while hosting Hawaii and Utah State. The Lobos will have to hope that their secondary, mainly made up of JUCO-transfers, will gel quickly and play well together. If not, then it will be another long season on the defensive side.
One to Keep an Eye On: Safety Brandon Burton transfers in from UCLA where he was mainly used on special teams. The Lobos might have gotten a steal with Burton as he was originally ranked the 13th best safety coming out of high school by ESPN and was listed as a four-star recruit by Rivals, ESPN, and Scout. If Burton can showcase his talent on defense rather than special teams he could very well be someone that helps turn the Lobos defensive woes around.
Aug 31st- Sam Houston State
Sept 14th- @ Notre Dame
Sept. 21st- New Mexico State
Sept. 28th- @ Liberty
Oct. 4th- @ San Jose State
Oct. 11th- Colorado State
Oct. 19th- @ Wyoming
Oct. 26th- Hawaii
Nov. 2nd- @ Nevada
Nov. 9th- Air Force
Nov. 16th- @ Boise State
Nov. 30th- Utah State
The Lobos have had a lot of changes over the offseason as Davie preps for what could be a make or break season. The non-conference schedule does have some favorable games, but at the same time they could lose all four of those contests. No one is expecting a win against Notre Dame, but the other three are very winnable, and with three winnable conference contests the idea of the Lobos making it to a bowl game this season doesn’t seem all that far-fetched. The key will be to stay healthy this season, something they did not do last season, and make key plays when needed. UNM failed to do that last season and it cost them in big ways, this time it might cost their coach his job.
Best Case Scenario:
The Lobos start 3-1 in non-conference play, get a win in their first conference game at San Jose State and needing just two wins to make bowl eligibility down the stretch surprise some folks and end up 8-4 on the season. They will need big plays on defense to make that happen, but recalling 2016, no one expected an 8-4 regular season out of that team.
Worst Case Scenario:
The Lobos get stunned on their home field to start the season against Sam Houston State. Nothing against the Bearkats, who are actually a really good F.C.S. team, then the screams for Davie’s job will be in full force, with a game at Notre Dame on the horizon. The Lobos were unable to get out of Madison, Wisconsin last season unscathed from injury and may end up the same way in South Bend, setting up a disastrous finish to the non-conference slate, start 0-4 and get Davie canned midway through the season.
What’s Probably Going To Happen:
New Mexico will make things tight throughout much of their contests, just like in seasons past, were one or two plays will swing the outcome in either direction. The offense is going to have some continuity, while the defense adds some SEC and AAC flair to their coaching staff. All in all, this is a team that is going to finish around .500 this season; anywhere from 5-7 to 7-5 is what we’re looking at with this Lobos team. If the Lobos do end up with a 5-7 season it will depend on where those losses came during the season that will determine whether the school retains Davie. Anything 6-6, or above, and a bowl trip is a shoe-in job saver for coach.