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Lobos hard-pressed to find positives ahead of Rams matchup

October 20, 2017

At the midway point of the college football season, it’s much easier to distinguish between the Haves from the Have Nots.

While The University of New Mexico is far from the latter, one team making a push n the otehr direction is the Lobos’ opponent on Friday night at Dreamstyle Stadium, Colorado State.

The Rams have won three straight games and enter as a Mountain Division leader in the Mountain West Conference. At 5-2 overall and unbeaten through three games in league play, they are what UNM head coach Bob Davie said is one of the best offensive clubs in the country, and one that’s on the verge of going big time.

He spent parts of this week talking up CSU as if he were prepping Lobo fans for a blowout loss during their Friday night telecast on ESPN2.

“They have made a total commitment to football and they are on the brink of being in a power five conference, in my opinion,” Davie said. “They are that kind of a team.”

That commitment extends to a ferocious defense that has a potential NFL player in linebacker Josh Watson, the heart of a unit that could potentially have a field day against an injury-depleted UNM offensive front. The Lobos are missing both starting offensive tackles, not to mention lingering questions at quarterback.

Davie went so far as to playfully suggest that he might consider throwing one of his QBs into the tackle spot since he’s running out of people capable of making a block.

Senior quarterback Lamar Jordan has suffered the worst behind that line. He was blasted out of the lineup after taking a hard hit against Boise State in mid-September, and has struggled badly as the linemen in front of him have failed to keep him on his feet.

The poor line play caused Jordan to be tentative in the passing game — for good reason, said his coach.

“From a pass protection standpoint he has no chance because the [defensive] ends are just up the field in his face,” Davie said. “Psyche-wise, I think he’s really good.”

Then again, Davie did say that the Lobos play better when Jordan plays better. He just hasn’t played well since opening week.

“But it’s been an odd kind of a season,” Davie said. “Let’s call it what it’s been.”

Jordan will share time Friday with freshman Tevaka Tuioti and possibly third-string senior Coltin Gerhart. Tuioti came on in relief in last week’s disastrous 38-0 loss at Fresno State, but failed to get anything going as the Lobos abandoned the running game and started getting cute with a finesse passing game they’re not built for.

“We just turned into a pile of nothing a little bit,” Davie said. “Tevaka made some throws but that’s not what’s going to win the game.”

While it’s not doomsday, it’s clear that UNM has its hands full with a Colorado State team that is rolling along with an offense averagibng more than 35 points per game. Exactly what positives exist for the Lobos starts with the idea that a 3-3 record is now seen as a bad thing for the UNM football program.

Davie joked that it wasn’t so long ago that people would be high-fiving one another at being .500 at the midway point.

He also used a couple of classic scenes from the movie Anchorman as a backdrop to dealing with the roller coaster season that his team is going through.

“It’s been a glass house of emotion here,” Davie said, referencing Will Ferrell’s scene in a phone booth after watching his dog getting punted into oblivion by Jack Black. “I’m about to kick Baxter off the bridge.”

While kicking a dog off an overpass might seem a bit extreme, the point remains that Davie is frustrated with the way his team’s on-again, off-again execution. The stutter-stepping process leaves his team three wins short of becoming bowl eligible for the third straight year.

“There’s a lot of positives,” Davie said. “It’s just we’re backed in a corner personnel-wise a little bit right now. And we’re going to play a really good team this week. And we got shocked a little bit at Fresno.”