Jekyll or Hyde: Which Lo­bos will show up to­day?

UNM com­ing off up­set win, faces neme­sis Colorado St.

Santa Fe New Mexican - - FRONT PAGE - By Will Web­ber wweb­ber@sfnewmex­i­

Would the real Lobo foot­ball team please stand up?

Af­ter watch­ing the Uni­ver­sity of New Mex­ico foot­ball team ham­mer fa­vored UNLV in a road game last week, Lobo fans are prob­a­bly won­der­ing what team will show up when UNM trav­els to Colorado State for a Satur­day mat­inée against the Rams.

The Lo­bos (3-2 over­all, 1-0 in the Moun­tain West) have al­ter­nated wins and losses through the first five games, look­ing like an of­fen­sive ma­chine in the three wins and just plain of­fen­sive in the losses.

If form holds, it’ll be a long Satur­day

against a Colorado State team that has owned the long­stand­ing ri­valry in re­cent years. The Rams (2-4, 1-1) have won eight straight against the Lo­bos and have done most of their dam­age in the ri­valry by dom­i­nat­ing the game up front.

In short, CSU tend to do what­ever it wants against New Mex­ico. The Rams also have what tends to work ex­cep­tion­ally well against the Lobo de­fense; a taller re­ceiver with big-play ca­pa­bil­ity.

Pre­ston Wil­liams, a 6-foot-4 se­nior who trans­ferred to CSU from Ten­nessee, is one of the top re­ceivers in the coun­try. He had 188 yards on nine catches in the sea­son opener and had 121 yards in the first half against Arkansas.

The Lo­bos played their best de­fen­sive game of the last two years in last week’s blowout of UNLV. They didn’t al­low a first down un­til the fi­nal two min­utes of the open­ing half, and held the Rebels to just three suc­cess­ful con­ver­sions on third down.

On the flip side is a Lobo of­fense that went over 500 yards against UNLV. Head coach Bob Davie said the up­side to quar­ter­back Sher­iron Jones get­ting the full time job as the starter is the ad­di­tional reps and time with the first team, which al­lows him to play faster than he ever could have than he would have with the back­ups.

“He can just re­act and let his ath­letic abil­ity carry him in­stead of think­ing so much,” Davie said. “It’s fun to watch. The big­gest thing is Sher­iron didn’t turn the ball over.”

The ex­tra time and added speed has ac­tu­ally an un­usual ef­fect on Jones. In many ways it has slowed the game down, giv­ing him time to process the ac­tion and not feel forced to make plays.

Davie pointed to a pair of deep touch­down passes in last week’s win at UNLV when Jones stood in the pocket just long enough to let his re­ceivers get some sep­a­ra­tion — while al­low­ing the de­fen­sive front to get in his face and lower the boom.

Both times he got the ball off just in the nick of time, two sure signs that he’s set­tling nicely into UNM’s new­fan­gled pass/ run of­fense that no longer de­pends on the triple op­tion to chew up real es­tate.

“We turned a guy loose and he stood in the pocket and de­liv­ered,” Davie said. “He’s get­ting bet­ter.”


Au­di­tion for 2019: Davie said the plan has been to red­shirt quar­ter­back Trae Hall this sea­son. That idea hasn’t stopped even though in­juries have of­fi­cially made Hall the backup to Jones.

Un­der a new NCAA rule, play­ers can ap­pear in up to four reg­u­lar-sea­son games and still red­shirt. That means Hall, who made his de­but last week against UNLV with a cup of cof­fee off the bench, can get into three games be­fore shut­ting it down for the sea­son.

He will re­turn next sea­son as a fresh­man and, as­sum­ing all goes to play, would be third on the depth chart be­hind Jones and Te­vaka Tui­oti.

Plus side of .500: Six MWC teams en­ter play this week­end with win­ning records, in­clud­ing UNM. Of the six, five are un­de­feated in con­fer­ence play. The only ex­cep­tion is peren­nial power Boise State, whose only loss in league play came to San Diego State.

Re­gard­less of what hap­pens this week­end, UNM will be the only MWC team not to play a home game in con­fer­ence. Fresno State and San Diego State will have league gamed while the Lo­bos’ first two game in the con­fer­ence will have been on the road.

No mo­ti­va­tion: There was a time when be­ing sched­uled as an op­po­nent’s home­com­ing game was an in­sult to the vis­it­ing team. Not so much any­more, Davie said.

The Lo­bos are Colorado State’s home­com­ing op­po­nent and the UNM coach said he might men­tion it to his guys to get a lit­tle ex­tra umph out of them in the pregame speech, but there’s not much point in try­ing too hard to get lever­age out of it.

“It’s a lit­tle more ran­dom now,” he said of the sched­ul­ing. “But I might sneak that home­com­ing one in there a lit­tle bit, just try to get any ad­van­tage I can get.”

Bowl­ing: Only six teams have reached bowl el­i­gi­bil­ity: Alabama, Clem­son, Ge­or­gia, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Cincin­nati. An­other 18 can pick up the req­ui­site six wins this week­end.

One Moun­tain West team, Hawaii, is al­ready 6-1 but needs a sev­enth win to be­come post­sea­son el­i­gi­ble since the War­riors play 13 games in the reg­u­lar sea­son and all bowl­bound teams must fin­ish .500 or bet­ter.

Hawaii heads to Brigham Young on Satur­day and then fin­ishes with three of its fi­nal five games on the is­land.


UNM wide re­ceiver Eli­jah Lilly scores Oct. 6 against UNLV in Las Ve­gas, Nev. On Satur­day, the Lo­bos face Colorado State, a team they have lost to eight straight times.

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