Saturday: New Mexico at New Mexico State
Time: 6 p.m., Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces
TV: It’s complicated
Radio: KKOB 94.5 FM, 770 AM
Betting Line: UNM favored by 4 1/2-5 1/2 (VegasInsider.com)
By Greg Archuleta
Assistant Sports Editor
It’s either Rivalry Week or Dichotomy Week for the New Mexico Lobo and New Mexico State Aggie football teams coming up on Saturday.
The Lobos (1-1) travel to Las Cruces to take on the Aggies (0-3), the first three-loss FBS team in 2018.
UNM enters Dichotomy Week with the distinction of feeling good after a 31-point loss, after feeling not so good after a 32-point win in its season opener.
NMSU’s Dichotomy Week consists of trying to navigate the afterglow of a breakthrough season. After going to — and winning — its first bowl game in 47 years in 2017, coach Doug Martin says his 2018 squad is both lacking in confidence trying to live up to the standards last year’s team set while acting as if the success of last year is just automatically going to come.
The questions to be answered Saturday night: Are the Lobos that good? Are the Aggies that bad?
And in an unrelated topic, will Eminem be angry that one of his song titles is being used in a sports article?
UNM is on a two-game losing streak against NMSU — with the general consensus around the state being that the Lobos should consistently win these games as the “big brother” program in New Mexico.
But after an uneven performance in their 62-30 win over Incarnate Word, the Lobos played with then-No. 5 Wisconsin for 2 1/2 quarters before the Badgers’ size finally took over for good.
“I really like our team,” Davie said this week, following UNM’s 45-14 loss at Wisconsin (whose touchdown pass with 22 seconds left didn’t appear to help its cause in the polls as it fell to No. 6 this week). “I really like our coaching staff. But I like our team. I like the way they approached things. I like the kind of chemistry we have. I like the leadership we have.”
Davie said he wanted to see individual improvement in the game in Wisconsin, and he did. The Lobos trailed only 10-7 with the ball inside the Badgers 30 midway through the third quarter with a chance to tie or go ahead.
But without starting quarterback Tevaka Tuioti, who went out of the game with concussion-like symptoms in the second quarter, the Lobos faltered.
“We were in a good position,” Davie said. That game just “got away from us at the end.”
The Lobos did display an impressive passing attack against Incarnate Word to the tune of 361 yards. But they also gave up 30 points and surrendered 566 yards of total offense, including 391 in the first half. That left them hesitant about their chances against Wisconsin.
Despite UNM having to start third-string quarterback Sheriron Jones this weekend in Las Cruces, Davie has reason to believe his team’s confidence benefited from a trip to Big Ten country last week.
“I think we have a chance to be pretty good,” Davie said. “Now, we have to go to Las Cruces with a third quarterback and go win a game.”
Except that Davie doesn’t consider Jones to be third-string caliber. The former Tennessee Volunteer simply lacks the experience in the scheme that Tuioti and backup Coltin Gerhart (sprained foot in the opener) have.
“I don’t consider Sheriron a typical third quarterback,” Davie said. “I think he was the third quarterback because he wasn’t here in the spring. He had a hamstring injury that took him away for a good two weeks.”
Davie added he’s anxious to see how Jones performs with a full week of reps as the No. 1 quarterback.
“He’s had a full week to prepare to prove he is not a third quarterback,” the coach said. “We’re excited about this.”
True freshman Trae Hall, a product of Henderson, Texas, will be the backup for UNM on Saturday. Bryson Carroll, a former quarterback who switched to running back in the offseason, will be the third quarterback in Las Cruces.
Asked whether UNM could have a quarterback controversy if Jones has an exceptional game against NMSU and challenges Tuioti to become the starter, Davie became almost giddy.
“Man, I would love to have that question at the press conference next week!” he said. “It’s my dream scenario!”
On the other side of the ledger, NMSU coach Doug Martin is trying to figure out how to get his team going after being outscored 137-30 in the Aggies’ first three games.
“I would’ve thought they’d come into this season really confident, but I don’t feel like they did — for whatever reason,” Martin said. “I don’t know if they’re intimidated trying to hold the standard of what happened here last year or what it is, but there’s something that’s just kind of missing with this group right now. …
“There’s also a complacency issue taking place. They think things are just going happen for them (like they did last year).”
The Aggies are averaging just 228.7 total yards per game offense and giving up 45.7 points and 472.3 yards per game.
Even the prospect of facing UNM’s third-string quarterback isn’t comforting to Martin and the struggling Ags.
“I don’t think there’s any difference in how they run their offense (with Jones in the game as opposed to Tuioti),” Martin said. “The more important thing for us is we’re giving up 5.9 yards per run. We’ve got to make New Mexico, or anyone, beat us passing the football.”
RIVALRY GAMES ARE TOUGH; RIVALRY GAME QUESTIONS ARE TOUGHER: One reporter at Davie’s weekly news conference was quite the early bird in bringing up the coach’s job security in connection with Saturday’s game.
“Rivalry games are tough,” the reporter said. “You’ve lost (to NMSU) the last two seasons. Barring a loss (sic) in this third game, do you think that might add some pressure to you maybe losing your job here, especially with all the recent (offseason) investigations surrounding you?”
Davie brushed off the question with a smirk.
“That’s one for you to figure out,” Davie said. “You had all the facts on that question. You should probably figure out that question for yourself.”
FROM ONE BOB TO ANOTHER: Davie took time during his news conference to recognize ESPN Albuquerque 101.7-FM’s Bob Brown, who announced earlier in the week his plans to retire.
Brown has been a sports journalist for 35 years. Davie gave Brown a No. 35 cherry-colored Lobo football jersey with Brown’s name on the back.
Greg Archuleta is the assistant editor at Enchantment Sports. He was the New Mexico Lobo football beat writer for the Albuquerque Journal for 12 years and worked as a professional journalist for more than two decades. You can reach him at greg.enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.