Friday: Colorado State (1-5, 0-2 MW) at New Mexico (2-3, 0-1)
Time: 6 p.m.
Location: Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque
TV: CBS Sports Network
Radio: KKOB 94.5 FM, 770 AM
Line: Colorado State favored by 3 1/2 (vegasinsider.com)
Feature photo courtesy UNM Athletic Communications: UNM senior quarterback Sheriron Jones (4) last year vs. Colorado State.
By Greg Archuleta
Enchantment Sports Assistant Editor
The current state of Lobo football may be best summed up — not by the indecision of whom to start at quarterback on Friday against fellow struggling conference member Colorado State — but by a decision made last week by senior defensive back Patrick Peek.
Coach Bob Davie initially said last week and reiterated at his news conference Tuesday that Peek decided to redshirt this season so he can redo his senior season of eligibility in 2020.
Davie said Peek and his father decided to take advantage of the rule allowing players to participate in the first four games and still be able to redshirt for the year.
So as the Lobos (2-3, 0-1 Mountain West) prepare to host the Rams (1-5, 0-2) in what looks to be UNM’s best chance for a victory for the rest of 2019, to call their situation dire may not yet be accurate — but it does seem to be trending that way.
CSU, by the way, is a 3 1/2-point favorite.
It’s not often that a healthy senior will seek a redshirt season. It could be that Peek sees next year’s team as improved. It could be that Peek and his father believe the 2020 Lobos could be under new management.
Either way, it’s a bad look that Peek didn’t believe finishing out 2019 was in his best interest.
“It’s the first time I ever had that happen in my coaching career where a guy who’s a starter, his dad and he, decide to redshirt,” Davie said, as the Albuquerque Journal reported. “… You’re not in a position where you make a kid play. It was his decision. It’s happening across the country. It’s not only here.”
Starters, however, don’t usually ask for a redshirt.
Of more immediate concern to Davie is how to manage the sudden onset of a quarterback controversy. Sophomore Tevaka Tuioti, the presumed No. 1 all preseason before missing most of fall camp due to his ailing maternal grandfather who died days before the season opener, has looked uncharacteristically shaky after a record-setting performance in his first start against New Mexico State.
He’s completed 16 of 36 passes in the last two weeks combined — both losses — for 173 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions
Senior Sheriron Jones replaced Tuioti in the second quarter last week at San José State, and he led the team with 104 rushing yards and a touchdown and 127 passing yards and two TDs during the Lobos’ 32-21 loss.
Jones, however, threw three interceptions among his 16 pass attempts and only completed seven.
“We have to perform better; we have to play better,” Davie said. “Disappointing — not as an overreaction — just that offensively, we thought quite honestly after the New Mexico State game that we might be in a position to become consistent on offense.
“It’s back to how do we get consistency on offense?”
Davie said both will play; Jones earned playing time, based on the number of what Davie called “effort plays” he had against the Spartans in leading UNM back from a 26-0 first-half deficit.
“His good is really good, and at times his bad is really bad,” Davie said of his senior. “He knows that; we know that. He can get better. But I love his heart, and I love the way he goes in there and plays.
“Tevaka — we still feel the same way about Tevaka. We think he can be really good. Two weeks in a row, I wouldn’t use the word, ‘lethargic,’ but just not like (Davie snapped his fingers repeatedly), ‘OK, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!'”
Davie has said both will play Friday; what the split will be is anyone’s guess.
CSU, too, has played the quarterback carousel as senior starter Collin Hill suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in week three against Arkansas, giving way to junior Patrick O’Brien.
He has appeared in five of the six Rams games and has completed 73 of 132 passes for 974 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
CSU is hoping senior running back Martin Kinsey Jr., who already has 618 rushing yards (a 103.0-yard average) and four TDs, can take some of the pressure off O’Brien. Kinsey also has 15 receptions for 208 yards and two TDs.
O’Brien’s two favorite targets are junior wide receiver Warren Jackson and freshman Dante Wright. The two have 64 catches between them for an average of 163.5 yards.
The Rams, however, also have committed 16 turnovers, 10 by fumble. So far this season, the Lobo defense has only forced four turnovers, three via fumble.
New Mexico is expected to play without sophomore rush linebacker Dylan Horton due to an ankle injury. He could be out multiple weeks.
UNM has committed 13 turnovers on offense, thanks in large part to six TOs at San José State. The team that wins the turnover battle should have the inside track to a victory that both staffs badly need to cool the hot seats they’re on.
Rams coach Mike Bobo has won just 4 of his last 18 games after three years of 7-6 records.
Davie is 8-21 over the last two-plus seasons after guiding the team to a 9-4 mark in 2016.
After Friday, UNM does not play a team that currently has a losing record. The last two seasons, the Lobos were 3-2 after five games and then went on seven-game losing streaks.
At 2-3 in 2019, the Lobos would ensure they won’t lose seven straight with a win vs. CSU, which has won nine straight games from the Lobos. UNM’s last win came in former coach Mike Locksley’s first year in 2009 — a 29-27 win in Albuquerque.
If UNM fails to get a victory Friday, Davie may not get a better chance to cool the hot seat he’s on for the rest of 2019.