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The Lobo Pack: San Jose State recap, takeaways

Rough start for the Danny Gonzales era

NCAA Football: New Mexico at San Jose State Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Danny Gonzales’ head coaching debut for the University of New Mexico didn’t end how he would want, but he did like some of the things that he saw.

“I appreciate them never giving up. I appreciate their spirit, their fight,” Gonzales said in a virtual press conference following Saturday night’s game in San Jose.

The San Jose State Spartans gashed the Lobos defense in the first half and then made enough big plays in the second half to pull away for a 38-21 win on Saturday night.

San Jose State raced out to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter before New Mexico answered back when Tevaka Tuioti found Cedric Patterson III for a 39-yard strike to close to within 14-7.

San Jose State answered back, though, with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Starkel to wide receiver Tre Walker. Tuioti connected on a four-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Erickson right before half to make it 21-14.

The Lobos made it interesting in the second half, making San Jose State punt on their first drive and then putting together an eight-play, 71-yard drive that culminated in a Tuioti one-yard touchdown run on fourth and goal to tie the game at 21-21.

From there the Lobos offense became stagnate and the Starkel and the Spartans made a couple of big plays to capture the win. Following a field goal to make it 24-21 SJSU, the two squads traded punts. Then on the final play of the third quarter, Starkel found Bailey Gaither, who got behind the Lobos defense and took it 69-yards for a touchdown to make it 31-21.

Early in the fourth quarter, the Lobos drove to the San Jose State 46, but on fourth and three, Tuioti over-threw his intended receiver and was intercepted by Tre Jenkins. On the ensuing Spartans drive, Starkel hooked up with Gaither for a 55-yard strike to the UNM 20-yard line. Then later on, Starkel found Sam Olson for a one-yard touchdown on what was fourth and goal, to conclude the scoring.

Takeaways:

This Lobos team is light years ahead of where they were under Bob Davie in 2019, but they still need some work.

San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel torched the Lobos defense to the tune of 467 yards and five touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns came in the first half and his two second half touchdown tosses came at critical times to help put the Lobos away.

The defense was physical, just as Gonzales and defensive coordinator Rocky Long want them to be. The defense was able to get pressure on Starkel, knocking him out for a series with an injury. And the Lobos allowed just 98 yards rushing, which is a marked improvement for a school that allowed 164.5 rushing yards per game in 2019.

The up-tempo offense flowed much better. The Lobos ended with 443 total yards of offense on Saturday. Tuioti was 20-for-35 for 294 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Tuioti was also the leading rusher for UNM with 69 yards on 14 carries. The Lobos ended with 149 yards on the ground.

Third downs were tough on the Lobos. The offense went 4-for-14 on third down conversions in the game, while the Lobo defense could only hold the Spartans offense to 8-for-17 on third down conversions.

Looking ahead:

It has been a whirlwind three weeks for the UNM football team, a couple weeks ago they had to pause practice because of rising COVID-19 cases in Bernalillo County in New Mexico, where the University is located, and eventually had their contest with Colorado State canceled last Saturday.

This game against San Jose State was originally supposed to be played in Albuquerque, before officials for both schools decided to move it to San Jose due to the public health order in place in New Mexico. On top of that, New Mexico will not come back to Albuquerque following this contest, but they will get ready for Hawaii next Saturday by practicing and working out on the UNLV campus in Las Vegas.

Speaking of that Hawaii team, the Rainbow Warriors are 1-1 on the season, with a win over Fresno State on October 24th, before dropping 31-7 to Wyoming this past Friday night. The game between Hawaii and New Mexico will be on Saturday at 9 p.m. Mountain time.