I had an apparent miscommunication with University of New Mexico football coach Bob Davie during his postgame news conference Saturday night after Liberty’s 52-43 upset of UNM.
I was asking for Bob Davie’s insight on a situation; he must have thought I was asking for a Bob Davie insult.
There were actually a couple of instances of miscommunication with reporters during Saturday night’s postgame festivities. It would’ve been easy for UNM to handle each situation with a bit of tact.
Instead, bullying was the tactic of choice.
The situation involving me pertained to the final Lobo possession of the game. Down nine points, UNM had the ball on its own 42 following a 24-yard kickoff return with 56 seconds left and no timeouts.
On first down, Lobo quarterback Sheriron Jones scrambled 32 yards to the Flames 26, putting New Mexico in field goal range with 45 seconds left. The next play, first down, Jones threw an incomplete pass. On second down, Liberty’s Isaac Steele intercepted a Jones pass intended for Elijah Lilly at the Flames’ 2-yard line.
Here’s the basis of my question. UNM was out of timeouts and needed two scores — a touchdown and a field goal, to be more precise — to win. The Lobos were going to have to attempt an onsides kick at some point to win the game.
So with UNM in field goal range, did Davie consider kicking a field goal immediately to pull the Lobos within 52-46 and then attempting an onsides kick? The logic behind kicking the field goal is that it gives the offense some time on the clock to navigate down the field for the go-ahead touchdown if the onsides kick is successful.
Also, it helps the offense avoid using too much time trying to score the touchdown first and not having enough time to try an onsides kick or needing a Hail Mary because it doesn’t have enough time to get into field goal range.
In games with such scenarios, broadcast teams invariably discuss the strategy of when to send in the field goal kicker to make it a one-possession game. As EnchantmentSports.com Editor Mark Smith points out, Davie was a longtime broadcaster. He should be well-versed in discussing the strategy when a team needs a touchdown and a field goal to win and time is running out.
When I asked Davie the question, I did preface it by asking if he had considered kicking a field goal before Jones threw the pick. I simply wanted his perspective on whether he considered kicking a field goal once UNM got in field goal range.
WE’RE TALKING ABOUT SECOND DOWN
That’s when Davie shared his love for second down, saying the phrase 10 times over the next 32 seconds during our exchange.
“It was second down, when he threw the interception, right? Didn’t he throw the interception on second down? He threw the interception on second down,” Davie stated.
“I’m not going to kick the field goal on second down, right? I mean, what’s the question? It’s second down. We’re trying to score a touchdown.”
“So you didn’t consider it,” I said, repeating my question.
“No, on second down, I’m not kicking a field goal. Absolutely not. Who does that? Is that what you’re asking me?”
I tried clarifying: “That’s what I’m asking you, if you’re in field goal range …”
“On second down? On second down, I’m going to kick a field goal? … No, it’s second down. I don’t know where that happened before, on second down and then go onside kick? I don’t think so,” he said.
(My question is at the 9:30 mark of the interview)
First of all, when you’re down two scores with 40 seconds left, downs become irrelevant. If you eat up the clock trying to score a touchdown, you’ve lost anyway.
In basketball, losing teams foul at the end of the game to extend the game. Kicking a field goal (assuming it’s good) extends the game.
Second of all (or second down, if that helps), it is absolutely Davie’s job to consider all possibilities in the path to win games.
Had Davie stopped at, “I’m not going to kick the field goal on second down,” the exchange would’ve perfectly fine. That tells me his strategy in the situation — get the touchdown first.
Once, he followed with, “What’s the question?” Davie decided that intimidation by belittling the reporter’s question was appropriate.
It was not.
Davie then doubled-down when he added, “Who does that? Is that what you’re asking me?”
A SHARED EXPERIENCE
It turned out that Davie’s bully tactics were contagious among his staff.
Earlier during Davie’s remarks, he talked about losing quarterback Tevaka Tuioti to a season-ending broken clavicle and added that backup Coltin Gerhart is not yet ready to return from a sprained foot, leaving the team only with Jones at quarterback with any experience.
Jones was in the room, waiting for his turn to answer media questions.
Davie’s point was that UNM can’t afford to run the triple-option and risk hurting Jones, but would have to continue to develop the passing game because the Lobos may have to win high-scoring games to overcome a struggling defense.
Another reporter had a different interpretation of Davie’s remarks. He thought Davie was saying that the Lobos were without Tuioti and Gerhart, and thus were stuck with Jones.
When Jones fielded media questions, the reporter asked how Davie’s words made him feel and whether he would fight Gerhart to remain the starter when Gerhart returns.
Jones answered appropriately, saying initially he was only concerned about Saturday night’s game, and then said he remains committed to doing everything he can to make the team better.
UNM assistant athletic director for communications Frank Mercogliano approached the reporter after the news conference ended, and another member of Davie’s staff rushed to condemn the reporter, asserting that his question was totally inappropriate.
What was inappropriate was for the staff member to try to dictate what reporters can ask during news conferences. Maybe I should feel lucky that the UNM news conference police didn’t come after me as well.
Had Mercogliano quietly talked to the reporter after the conference and clarified what Davie was trying to say, that would’ve been the way to go. Telling the reporter that the question was the dumbest Mercogliano has heard during his time at UNM?
Not so much.
It’s doubtful UNM will look to revisit the way its coaches or staff try to bully the media over questions they deem inferior.
Enchantment Sports will not be bullied … no matter how many “second down” references are used.
Greg Archuleta covered the UNM Lobo football team for 12 years for the Albuquerque Journal and has been a professional journalist since 1992.