Oct. 1, 2011
New Mexico Lobos -- at University Stadium
Saturday: New Mexico State 42, Lobos 28
Up Next: Lobos at Nevada, Oct. 15
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- The fans showed up early and 30,091 strong. The New Mexico State Aggies showed up early and strong, too, rolling to a 21-0 first-quarter lead and an eventual 42-28 win.
The New Mexico Lobos' defense? Well, it definitely didn't show up early as NMSU gunned its way to a 28-7 halftime lead and coasted to the Aggies' third straight victory over New Mexico, now 0-5 heading into a much-needed bye week.
"We have to find ways to make plays on defense," said George Barlow, who took over the head coaching duties for Michael Locksley. "We have to find ways to get better.
"We may have to change the scheme. You never know. We have to look at as many things as we can to try and find a spark on defense where we are stopping people because right now, we're not."
The Aggies stunned the Lobos early by scoring on their first three possessions and four of their first five drives. NMSU's first TD came before a minute had ticked off the game clock Saturday night at University Stadium.
"We didn't start like I thought we'd start," said Barlow, now 0-1 as a head coach. "When you start that badly, it's hard to keep your confidence throughout the game. We have to start a lot better."
The crowd that greeted the state's two top-tier football programs was outstanding on a perfect football night in Albuquerque. "It was pretty cool," said Lobo quarterback B.R. Holbrook. "Thank you, fans. We really appreciate it."
Said Lobo Joseph Harris: "This was a large game for us and with all the fans out there, it gets you pumped up and makes you want to play hard. I think we did."
The Lobos might have played hard, but they didn't play well early on offense or defense. The Lobos saw six of their first seven possession end in five punts and an interception. UNM's fourth possession, in the second quarter, was an 85-yard, 12-play drive that ended with a Crusoe Gongbay 8-yard TD run.
The Lobos' offense showed more rhythm late, but NMSU was up 35-7 and had softened things a bit on defense.
"The offense took a little more time than I wanted to start clicking," said Barlow. "We needed to get in a rhythm quicker. We have to start quicker. I thought (Holbrook) played well enough where we need to continue with him."
Said Holbrook, who got his first start of the season: "We can't start that slowly. That was unacceptable. I need to look at myself really closely and see what I need to improve on."
Holbrook completed 22 of 36 passes for 265 yards and one TD. He was picked off once and sacked four times. UNM's Ty Kirk pulled in 11 passes for 90 yards and Deon Long had six grabs for 94 yards. UNM is still having trouble getting passes to All-Mountain West tight end Lucas Reed, who had one grab for eight yards.
Holbrook's counterpart for NMSU, Matt Christian, went 16 of 27 for 296 yards and burned the UNM secondary four times for aerial scores to four different Aggie receivers. He also ran for 101 yards on 15 carries for a 6.7 average and one rushing TD. NMSU also got 109 rushing yards from Kenny Turner.
The Lobo offense had solid numbers with 163 yards rushing and 265 passing for a 428 total. NMSU had 27 first downs and the Lobos had 25. The Aggies converted a deadly 11 of 14 third-down chances.
Christian was only sacked once, in the second half, by UNM's Anthony Hooks. The Aggies' scrambling ability and his strong bursts out of the option were thorns in UNM's side all night.
"It's across the board," said Barlow on the problems getting pressure on Christian. "When we rush four, we're not getting there. When we rush five, we're not getting there.
"We are letting teams run the ball and pass the ball and we have to find a way to stop it. We have to control the line of scrimmage much better than what we've been doing."
UNM was led on defense by Bubba Forrest, Anthony Hooks and Carmen Messina each with nine combined tackles. Other than Hooks' lone sack of Christian, UNM had only two tackles for loss - a total of three yards. "We have to do a better job with the line of scrimmage," said Barlow.
Barlow said the slow start and the 21-point hole that the Aggies threw the Lobos into obviously hurt, but he did not see any quit in his team. "I thought they still had a good look in their eye," he said. "I think we still have some fight in us."
That Lobo fight will be called on big time the remainder of the season as UNM arguably enters the meat of the Lobos' schedule: Nevada, TCU, Air Force, San Diego State, UNLV, Wyoming and Boise State.
The Lobos had entered the season hoping to notch six wins and become bowl eligible. There are still enough games left for that to happen, but the Lobos did not need to look back on NMSU, Sam Houston State and Colorado State and see no Lobo wins.
"It (NMSU game) didn't turn out exactly like we wanted it to turn out," said Barlow. "But we have to stay together as a team. We have to keep grinding."