Saturday: New Mexico (2-4, 0-2 MW) at Wyoming (4-2 1-1)
Time: 1 p.m.
Location: War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, Wyo.
TV: AT&T Sports Nework
Radio: KKOB 94.5 FM, 770 AM
Line: Wyoming favored by 19 1/2 (VegasInsider.com)
By Greg Archuleta
Enchantment Sports Assistant Editor
The situation just gets weirder for the University of New Mexico football team.
Two weeks after starting senior safety Patrick Peek decided to redshirt four games into the 2019 season, the Lobos’ presumed quarterback for the foreseeable future declined the coaching staff’s request to warm up and possibly enter Friday’s game against Colorado State.
The scenario leaves UNM (2-4, 0-2 Mountain West) trying to figure out how to improve the passing game with senior Sheriron Jones as it prepares to take on the Wyoming Cowboys (4-2, 1-1) on Saturday in Laramie, Wyo.
Jones started the game against Colorado State and was just 2 of 6 for 11 yards in the first half. The Lobos at one point had a 14-7 lead but went into halftime trailing 21-14.
During the postgame news conference, Davie said the coaching staff considered putting ing Tuioti into the game in the second half, but “he didn’t seem ready,” based on a conversation Tuioti had with offensive coordinator Joe Dailey.
During his weekly news conference on Tuesday, Davie went into greater detail about what happened.
“It was a one-time decision by Tevaka that Sheriron was doing pretty well,” Davie said. “We were running the ball. He (Tuioti) did a great job on the sidelines. We didn’t absolutely say, ‘You’re going in,” and he didn’t absolutely say, ‘no.’
“We asked him. ‘What do you think about warming up and getting ready to go?’ And he said, ‘Coach, I’m completely behind Sheriron right now. I think it’s best for the team that Sherion plays this out.'”
Jones finished the game 8 of 17 for 89 yards with an interception and a fumble.
Davie said he believes that Tuioti absolutely was doing what he thought was best for the team and that is fitting with Tuioti’s personality.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about how you lead and how you take advantage of that personality,” Davie said. “‘If you really care about the team,’ as he does, ‘play! Play and lead from on the field and not on the sidelines.’ But he was well-intentioned.”
And it leaves UNM with a big dilemma this week. Does Jones continue to play and the coaching staff try to find some things he can do in the passing attack?
Or do the Lobos turn to Tuioti, who admirably was thinking about his teammate but not about what was best for the entire team. Perhaps, his decision was based on his feelings when he was benched in favor of Jones the week before at San José State.
Jones, of course, did enter that game.
The larger issue for UNM is that for three years, it has tried to anoint Tuioti as the “franchise” quarterback. While his actions on Friday were admirable and completely acceptable if the Lobos were a YAFL team, no college football program should have to coax any quarterback to enter the game when the outcome is in doubt.
You want your quarterback to have some fire — and desire to lead. No doubt, Jones understands that and has that desire.
UNM did recruit junior college transfer QB Brandt Hughes, but he was lost for the season with a should injury during the first half of the season opener against Sam Houston State.
Davie also reversed course from his postgame news conference Friday night, in which he said he probably was not going to insert redshirt freshman QB Trae Hall into the mix. Tuesday, Davie said that Hall would be more involved.
Sophomore running back Bryson Carroll injected some life into the running attack with his 193-yard performance on Saturday. But now that New Mexico is married to the spread option, it has to have a quarterback that can throw the football, or else opposing defenses will just load the box to stop the run and force Jones to throw the ball
The QB position also should be wide open because Tuioti’s stats his last two games — 16-of-36 passing for 173 yards with three interceptions — showed regression from his stellar 2019 debut vs. New Mexico State.
But with Peek’s decision not to play out the 2019 season, Tuioti’s well-meaning but misguided attempt at a team-first mentality takes on a bigger mark against Davie as he tries to turn around UNM’s fortunes that have been slumping now for 2 1/2 seasons.
The Lobos need more players willing to help now — not deferring until the next game. Or the next season.