The New Mexico Lobos offense only mustered 36 yards passing, allowed eight sacks and turned the ball over three times in a stunning 31-17 loss to previous winless UNLV on Saturday night in Mountain West Conference action in Albuquerque.
The Lobos gained 260 yards rushing on Saturday, but 250 of those yards came in the first half, as the offense was dominated by UNLV’s defense in the second half of the loss.
“Our team knew they were capable of beating us,” UNM head coach Danny Gonzales said following the loss. “We didn’t play well enough obviously. We can’t turn the ball over and give them short fields.”
In the first half, starting quarterback Isaiah Chavez fumbled the ball twice in UNM’s own territory. One fumbled occurred at the New Mexico 4-yard line, while the second came at the New Mexico 25-yard line. Both fumbles led to UNLV touchdowns. Chavez suffered an ankle injury on the first fumble but still came back into the game. During the second fumble, Chavez took a hit to the helmet and was held out for the rest of the contest as a precaution.
The third fumble came in the second quarter when CJ Montes fumbled at the New Mexico 35-yard line, and that led to a UNLV field goal.
The Lobos looked good early on, taking the opening drive of the game 91 yards in 10 plays that ended with Chavez finding Trace Bruckler for a 1-yard touchdown.
After forcing UNLV to punt on their first drive the Lobos were stopped on 4th-and-1 from the UNLV 40-yard line. After that it was mostly UNLV’s game.
Following Chavez’s first fumble, Charles Williams scored on a 4-yard touchdown run to tie the game. Then after Chavez’s second fumble, the Rebels scored on a 15-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Cameron Friel to receiver Marcus Phillips Jr. to make it 14-7 UNLV.
New Mexico was able to tie it on their next drive thanks to a 75-yard touchdown run from running back Bobby Cole to make it 14-14.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Friel found receiver Kyle Williams for a 75-yard touchdown strike, giving the Rebels a 21-14 lead, one which they would not relinquish.
To start with, the loss is disappointing on a couple of levels. And the Lobos suffered some key injuries and have another issue to worry about.
To start, this pretty much ensures the Lobos will not make a bowl game this season. Sitting at 3-6 on the season, UNM isn’t officially eliminated from bowl contention, but they would have to win out. However, with a schedule of Fresno State, Boise State and Utah State left, that seems highly unlikely.
On the injury end, the Lobos lost receiver Trae Hall for the rest of the season, as he suffered a broken ankle in the first quarter of the loss. Hall is a converted quarterback, that had been playing receiver for the past few games and was used a lot in the running game and short passing game. His loss will be huge for a Lobo offense that is struggling to move the ball.
Chavez, in the meantime, will have his ankle injury evaluated this week. If he and Terry Wilson are unable to play next week, it will be Montes getting the start with Conor Genal backing him up. Genal saw action last season, starting one game against Wyoming before leaving with a wrist injury and being replaced by Chavez.
The Lobos have become extremely one-dimensional on offense after Wilson has been out. Even with Chavez at quarterback, the Lobos have had very little output from the passing game. That isn’t lost on Gonzales. “We’re one-dimensional on offense because we can’t throw it very well,” Gonzales said following the game. “Over the course of the next couple of years we’re going to have to develop the ability to throw the football so other teams cannot load the box.”
Loading the box is what UNLV did to UNM on Saturday, allowing just 10 yards rushing in the second half, and shutting out the Lobos on the way to victory.
The Lobos will be on the road next week to take on the Fresno State Bulldogs. Fresno State will more than likely come into the game motivated after losing their game this past weekend to Boise State. The Bulldogs are still alive for a shot at the Mountain West Conference Championship Game and will no doubt come out playing hard.
The game between UNM and FSU will be on Saturday night at 5:00 p.m. Mountain Time and will again be streamed on Stadium and carried on the Lobo Sports Radio Network.