Sept. 12, 2009
Saturday: Tulsa 44, Lobos 10
Up Next: Air Force at Lobos, 5:30 p.m., Saturday (Sept. 19)
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
For Lobo Tray Hardaway, there was no doubt what he was going to do with the gift bouncing in front of him on the green grass of University Stadium. He was going to take it all the way.
"There was no way I was going to be caught. I wanted it too much," said the senior linebacker of his 92-yard scoring run in the University of New Mexico's 44-10 loss to Tulsa Saturday night. "And I had Clint McPeek right there with a block."
Hardaway's dynamic TD jaunt at the 14:16 mark of the fourth quarter obviously goes down as the Lobos' highlight in the loss to the Golden Hurricane in front of a crowd of 30,051.
The TD was the result of a hard rush and harder hit by UNM's Kendall Briscoe on Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne. The ball popped out of Kinne's hands and shot forward toward Hardaway.
"The D-line made a great play, got the sack, forced the fumble and the ball bounced right into my hands," said Hardaway.
In a way, this was something Hardaway had been envisioning leading into the Tulsa game. In another way, there was a twist. Hardaway had been visualizing glory coming after a bad Tulsa pass.
"I had been thinking about scoring all week," he said. "But I was thinking it might come on an interception. I didn't think it would be a fumble return, especially for 92 yards."
Hardaway's run, that went pretty much straight down the field, cut Tulsa's lead to 30-10 -- still too much of a hole for the Lobos to scratch out of.
The loss dropped the Lobos to 0-2 on the season with yet another high-octane offense on the horizon. The Air Force Academy's vaunted wishbone attack will step into University Stadium this coming Saturday at 5:30 p.m.
"To me, the option is not real hard," said Hardaway of Air Force's attack. "I've played against the option quite a few times, but they have a nice quarterback. We have to work on stopping him. Right now, we have to rally as a team to keep our confidence up. We have to come back and work even harder."
The Lobos also will have to find a way to get some points on the board from their offense. UNM also did not score a TD on offense in its 41-6 loss at Texas A&M.
"It's been a long time since I've gone two games without scoring a touchdown," said Lobo coach Mike Locksley. "I'm used to being able to run the football. And we have to find a way to manufacture big plays."
Especially on third down. If there was a key statistics that leaned against UNM and toward Tulsa Saturday, it was third-down conversions. The Lobo offense converted 1-of-15 third down attempts. Tulsa converted 8-of-17.
The Lobo offense simply left the field too quickly. The Lobo defense stayed on the field too much.
"I'm proud of the way our defense played," said Locksley. "The defense corrected quite a few things. We had a few instances where we need to get off the field on third down." The Lobo defense was led by linebacker Carmen Messina with 14 tackles, Hardaway with eight tackles, linebacker McPeek with seven and defensive back Frankie Baca with seven tackles, all solo. Bubba Forrest, a defensive back, added six tackles.
Tulsa ended the game with 22 first downs to six for UNM. The 2-0 Golden Hurricane had 151 yards rushing to 55 for the Lobos. Tulsa completed 23-of-36 passes for 338 yards. UNM completed 17-of-30 for 116 yards.
The Lobo running game continued to bog down at the line of scrimmage with Demond Dennis getting 22 yards on nine carries. UNM ran the ball 25 times for 55 yards for a 2.2 average per carry.
"We have got to find a way to run the ball," said Locksley. "When you are 1-for-15 on third downs ...
"We have some guys in our offense who have the ability to make plays. Somebody has to step up and do it.
Locksley said he needs better performances from his young Lobos, but the first-year Lobo coach was not trying to divert any responsibility for UNM's showing Saturday against Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane offense ran 80 plays. The UNM offense ran 55 plays. Kinne went 22-of-35 passing for 310 yards and four touchdowns.Tulsa led 17-3 at the half and 30-3 at the end of the third quarter.
"Being an offense guy, it starts and ends with me," said Locksley. "The accountability starts with me as the head coach. It's my offense. "But I still have the utmost confidence in the players we have in the locker room and the coaches we have."