By Greg Archuleta
Enchantment Sports Assistant Editor
It was uglier than it should have been.
The University of New Mexico football team ventured into historic Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday and played like a team in awe of venturing into historic Notre Dame Stadium.
The No. 7 Fighting Irish used a 31-point second quarter to batter the Lobos 66-14 in front of a sellout crowd of 77,622 in South Bend, Ind.
Head coach Bob Davie stayed in Albuquerque due to his recovery from health issues over his “serious medical condition” after the season-opening win vs. Sam Houston State on Aug. 31.
Early on, the Lobos appeared poised to give Davie an enjoyable afternoon in front of the TV.
For a quarter, the UNM defense looked like it could play with the big boys under the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus. But four turnovers by the Lobo offense, including a pick-six and a botched field-goal attempt sapped the visitors’ spirit as the game went on.
Here are three takeaways from the national stage defeat that New Mexico can take back home as it prepares for in-state rival New Mexico State next week.
1. Tevaka Tuioti has played two quarters of football in two games — and that’s just weird
He had a pass tipped on UNM’s first offensive possession that Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton snared and ran back 34 yards for a touchdown.
For the season, Jones is 10 of 26 for 141 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. Junior college transfer Brandt Hughes, who started the opener and injured his shoulder in the second quarter, was 12 of 29 for 218 yards with no TDs or interceptions.
When Tuioti came to UNM, he took the job away from Lamar Jordan, who was instrumental in the Lobos’ 9-4 campaign in 2016.
Tuioti earned the starting job last season over Jones and Coltin Gerhart before suffering a broken clavicle in week four to end his season.
Jones took over at QB after the Tuioti injury. Yet, he couldn’t win the starting job to open this season against Hughes.
Tuioti did not play in the opener, presumably because of his limited practice time in fall camp as he tended to his ailing grandfather who passed away a little more than a week before the season opener.
But Tuioti had all spring to learn new offensive coordinator Joe Dailey’s scheme and has shown to be a better pure passer than Jones.
To be sure, Tuioti was rusty after being sidelined for almost an entire year. He was 6 of 13 for 132 yards with no TDs or interceptions. He struggled to throw deep out patterns to his right side and he had one ill-advised pass under pressure that could’ve been picked off.
Unless Tuioti suffers another injury, he needs to be the QB taking all meaningful snaps the rest of the season.
2. Hello, Bryson Carroll
The quarterback-turned-tailback led the team in rushing with 69 yards on six carries, including an electrifying 47-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the second quarter.
Carroll gives UNM speed at running back it hasn’t had since Teriyon Gipson graduated in 2016.
Acting coach Saga Tuitele lamented in the postgame interview with KKOB radio that the offensive line started slowly and struggled to establish much control against the Irish defense.
The Lobos, however, did rush for 212 yards, a figure that was marred by a 28-yard loss on a bad snap on an Andrew Shelley field-goal attempt.
UNM actually had some decent — if sporadic — runs throughout the game. If Carroll can continue to emerge, the Lobo offense has a chance to be a strong point. The Lobos have capable wide receivers, but no one who represents a home run threat anytime he touches the ball.
Carroll could be the guy, and Davie could get what he wished for last season — a spread-option offense that can effectively run the football and be the unit’s strength.
Developing a running attack is critical to Tuioti’s health so that opposing defenses don’t bring constant pressure when he drops back to pass. And it would help the Lobos improve on their third-down efficiency, which is 15 percent through two games (5 of 33).
3. What has happened to “out-discipline?”
UNM did clean up its penalties from Game 1 to Game 2. In the opener, the Lobos had nine penalties for 90 yards and got that down to five for 39 yards on Saturday.
However, late in the third quarter, UNM made an apparent stop in the red zone — only to have defensive end Trent Sellers draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the third-down play was over to give the Irish a first-and-goal.
The Irish eventually punched the ball in the end zone.
Through two weeks, the Lobos are averaging seven penalties per game. They’ve missed one extra point and had an errant snap on a 29-yard field-goal attempt vs. Notre Dame that resulted in a lost fumble and a 28-yard loss.
UNM also turned over the ball four times against the Irish.
Davie is fond of saying that his team has a thin margin for error. The Lobos can’t afford to make mistakes like the ones they did on Saturday and hope to reach a bowl game.
Granted, they were going up against the No. 7 ranked team in the nation, but the Lobos have to cut down on the mistakes they’re making as they get deeper into the season.
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. Look for Greg’s “Koz and Effect” columns throughout the football season. Koz? You can as him why, or reach him with any other tidbits, tips or inquiries at enchantmentsportsNM@gmail.com.