Saturday: New Mexico at UNLV
Time: 2 p.m.
Location: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
TV: AT&T Sports Network
Radio: KKOB 94.5 FM, 770-AM
Line: UNLV favored by 9 1/2
By Greg Archuleta
Enchantment Sports Assistant Editor
Las Vegas is no place to visit with a “woe is me” attitude.
Fortunately, the University of New Mexico football team is not feeling sorry for itself following its 52-43 loss to Liberty and losing starting quarterback Tevaka Tuioti for the season with a broken clavicle.
UNM (2-2) travels to Sin City on Saturday to begin Mountain West play against the Rebels (2-2).
Lobo head coach Bob Davie said Tuesday during his weekly news conference that the weekly goal for the team — regardless of whether it won or lost the previous week — is to continue to improve.
“The one constant that you’ve heard me talk about every week is just get better,” Davie said.
“I talked to our team today about that. Whether it was (that) you beat New Mexico State (and) lost to Liberty, or you would’ve lost to New Mexico State (and) beat Liberty or you would’ve won both games … each and every week, the goal every single day (at practice) is be consistent and make improvement. And that is what this whole process is about.”
That process could be affected by the team’s collective state of mind, as well as momentum.
Davie was asked whether it was easier to coax that improvement coming off a win or a loss.
“That’s a hard question to answer,” he said. ” … We walked off the practice field last Tuesday and probably had the most energized practice we’ve had in a long time. Sometimes, I don’t know if that matters as much. … At the end of the day, that technique (that you practice daily) and that matchup, and doing it over and over — and ability level and all those things matter more, I think.”
Davie did concede that momentum, either way, could impact the team’s attempt to improve. Last season, that daily improvement did not show during the Lobos’ seven-game losing streak to end the season.
In 2016, however, UNM demonstrated considerable daily improvement in winning seven of its last eight games.
Davie said part of losing momentum also consists of things that happen on or off the field that become distractions in the team’s daily efforts to improve schematically and improve technique-wise.
“Our margin of error is so small here, week to week, that those are all the things we try to control,” he said.
At least, UNM does not travel to UNLV at a disadvantage. The Rebels also will play Saturday’s game without their starting quarterback.
According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, sophomore Armani Rogers tore the plantar plate in his big toe on his left foot during the Rebels’ 27-20 loss at Arkansas State on Sept. 22.
The injury, initially believed not to be serious, could sideline Rogers for six weeks. Rogers completed 34 of 82 passes for 369 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions on the season. More importantly, he led the team in rushing, averaging 122 yards per game with six rushing touchdowns.
UNLV had a bye week last week, and sophomore backup Max Gilliam took the first-team snaps and will start on Saturday.
But the Lobos’ Sheriron Jones has one start and significant playing time in three games this season in place of an injured Tuioti. He has much more experience entering Saturday’s game than Gilliam.
Davie noted UNLV’s situation but added that his team must make the necessary steps to get better on a daily basis before it can take advantage.
“That really doesn’t make any difference because it’s all about us, anyhow,” he said. “If we don’t show improvement, it doesn’t matter who their quarterback is. It’s all about us.”
PUTTING SECOND DOWN TO BED; IT’S THIRD DOWN: Davie made the unusual move of letting the Enchantment Sports reporter in attendance ask the first question of the news conference.
But before I could ask a question, Davie referenced my column on our postgame exchange Saturday night, following UNM’s 52-43 loss to Liberty, in which Davie took exception to a question I asked and I took exception to his response.
In our exchange, Davie said the phrase “second down” 10 times in 32 seconds.
(Here is the link to that column, which includes a Facebook video of his postgame news conference)
The exchange admittedly was pretty good theater.
“You have to laugh a little bit, right?” Davie said Tuesday. “Don’t we? Don’t we have to laugh a little bit?”
After the news conference, Davie came up to me to shake my hand. I appreciated the gesture.