New Mexico Lobos Football - at University Stadium
Saturday: Air Force 42, New Mexico Lobos 0
Up Next: Lobos at San Diego State, Saturday (Nov. 5)
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It would have been a better deal, more Lobo fan friendly, if you could have taken the best Lobo defender Saturday at University Stadium and tossed him into a one-on-one battle with the best Air Force Falcon defender.
That would have been a battle of fairness and the outcome would have been more of a 50-50 proposition: Lobo Carmen Messina vs. Falcon Brady Amack. It would have been a 6-foot-2, 235-pound Lobo vs. a 6-foot, 225-pound Falcon. Goliath vs. Goliath.
The playing field would have been level. The Lobos would have had a chance.
What actually happened at University Stadium on Saturday was not 50-50 football. The Air Force Falcons rolled out 35 first-half points, 335 rushing yards, and coasted to a 42-0 Mountain West Conference win.
The Lobos totaled 223 total yards and never really shined with their running game or passing game as they were shutout for the second consecutive week. UNM has scored a meager seven points in the past three games.
The Lobos, now 0-8 with four games to go, were not on the same level as Air Force. However, the battle between two of the top linebackers in the West was a good sideshow.
UNM's Messina had 15 tackles to lead all defenders and now totals 81 on the year.
Air Force's Amack had nine tackles to pace the Falcons and now had 80 on the season.
"Carmen is a man. He's a ballplayer and definitely the leader of this team," said George Barlow, UNM's interim head coach. "Every Saturday he is going to give you everything he has and that shows out there.
"There were times they had guys in open field and he comes out of nowhere playing as hard as he possible can to make plays. I love having him on the team. He's a guy I keep using as an example. We need to get as many guys on this team giving the same effort that he does."
Messina's effort definitely was outstanding as was UNM's Joseph Harris, who had 12 tackles against the precision Air Force triple option. The Lobos made a few defensive shifts in the second half and limited Air Force to seven points in the final 30 minutes.
It was a good half for the Lobos, on the defensive side, as several Lobos put out extreme effort backed by personal and team pride.
"For me, it's not difficult (to play all out)," said Messina. "I love this game with my whole heart. It's not hard for me to keep on going.
"I realize I only have a few more opportunities left to play the game I love, at this level. I'm going to go out there and play 110 percent every play that I have because I know the light at the end of the (UNM) tunnel is coming to a close.
"There's nothing to be happy about (with the score). It's definitely frustrating. It's up to me and the rest of the seniors to keep our heads up and keep in focus."
The Lobos' road doesn't get any easier this coming Saturday as the winless Lobos head to San Diego State. The Aztecs, coached by former Lobo coach Rocky Long, beat Air Force 41-27 at Air Force. The Aztecs have a more explosive and balanced attack. The Air Force veer is more ball control and time consuming.
A good series for UNM - and actually an impressive series for Air Force, too - was the 17-play, 86-yard Air Force drive that resulted in the Falcons' only score of the second half. That drive took 9:07 off the clock.
It was a good series for the Lobos because the Falcons had to work hard to make that march. The longest drive in Air Force's other five scoring drives was 4:48. It was an impressive drive for the Falcons because it showed the blue-collar, three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust, aspect of this grind-it-out attack.
"It's tough when you play that type of offense," said Barlow. "They pound on you and after a while it's tough to get those stops. I thought the kids gave great effort. These kids have fight in them. I don't think they quit."
The question of Lobos quitting - or not playing 100 percent - was thrown at Messina by one member of the Albuquerque media. The senior linebacker answered the question through a stern stare.
"Give up? I don't even know what that word means. It's not in my dictionary," said Messina. "If I ever see anybody on the sidelines or on the field ever take his foot off the gas, I'm going to be right in their face. Because that's not what Lobo football is all about.
"You have to play hard every snap, every chance you get you are going to go out and try to hit somebody. If I were to see anybody (quit) on defense I would definitely be getting in their face and you would see me out there going after one of my teammates.
"Every time I step on the field I want to win. I think everyone feels the same way. They want to go out there and win."
The Falcons made a Lobo victory tough by rolling out 14 first-quarter points and 21 second-quarter points. The UNM offense continued to sputter. A bad omen might have been the Lobos getting a false start penalty as the UNM offense prepared for its first snap of the game.
"That's something that's unacceptable," said Barlow.
Junior quarterback B.R. Holbrook went 17-of-27 passing for 109 yards with two interceptions. Deon Long had four receptions for 29 yards and tight end Lucas Reed had four grabs for 36 yards. UNM kicker James Aho missed two field-goal attempts, one from 40 yards and one from 30 yards.
The Air Force option got 87 yards from Connor Dietz, 75 yards from Asher Clark and 64 yards from Mike DeWitt. Air Force had little need to throw the ball and went 2-of-3 passing for 26 yards.
The Lobos only lost the time-of-possession battle 30:23 to 29:37, but the Falcons had six drives end by running out of space on the football field - touchdowns. UNM failed to crack scoring territory.