It was a tale of two halves in El Paso on Saturday night for the New Mexico Lobos against the UTEP Miners.
During the first 30 minutes, the Lobos defense forced three punts, a missed field goal, and a turnover. The Lobos offense got a touchdown and two field goals, allowing UNM to take a 13-3 lead in the intermission. In the second half, however, it was as though the teams changed jerseys after the break.
In the final 30 minutes, the UTEP Miners defense forced five punts, a turnover on downs, intercepted Lobo quarterback Terry Wilson, Jr. and shut out the Lobos. Meanwhile, the Miners offense put together 17 points in the second half to pull off a 20-13 win over New Mexico.
The Lobos were without six of their top eight receivers for the game, including Mannie Logan-Greene the Lobos leading receiver, for contact tracing. The absence of the receivers was definitely evident, especially late in the game when the Lobos were down and needing to air it out.
Terry Wilson, Jr. ended 16-for-38 for 160 yards and one interception. During many passing plays, especially in the second half, Wilson had to throw the ball away as receivers could not get any separation from the UTEP defensive backs.
New Mexico Athletic Director Eddie Nunez says that there is a possibility that those six players could return for the Air Force game next Saturday. Nunez said they will know later in the week.
Despite the missing players, the Lobos were still able to build a 10-point halftime lead. In the second half, the play calling relied a lot on the passing game with those players out. New Mexico ran for 123 yards, but the leading rusher was Aaron Dumas with eight carries for 28 yards. One would’ve thought that the Lobos would’ve relied more on the run game with the amount of players out. One would’ve also figured that the leading rusher would’ve had more than Bobby Cole’s 11 carries, but that was not the case.
The defense played solidly in the first half. In the second half, the Miners did get away with a rub play on Jacob Cowing’s 55-yard touchdown catch, but props to the Miners for doing it and getting away with it. Outside of that play, the Lobos could not slow down Cowing or Justin Garrett. Cowing ended with seven catches for 174 yards with that one touchdown and Garret finished with four catches for 105 yards. That was something the Lobos had been working on since last season, and while their pass defense was really good the first two games, the last two have been a repeat of the 2020 defense. The Lobos will have to turn that around if they hope to win some more contests this season.
The loss is critical, though, for the Lobos. With the goal being six wins, the Lobos needed to finish the non-conference side of the schedule at 3-1 to have a realistic chance on paper. Now with a record of 2-2, it will be difficult to get four wins in conference. Not saying it won’t happen, but chances with the difficulty of the schedule that it will not occur now.
The Lobos will come back to Albuquerque next weekend to host the Air Force Falcons in the conference opener for UNM. Air Force will enter the contest with a record of 3-1 and 0-1 in the Mountain West Conference.
The Falcons defeated Florida Atlantic, 31-7, this past weekend. Their loss was a 49-45 decision to the Utah State Aggies.
Game time with Air Force will be 4:30 Mountain Time on Saturday and will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 2.