Sept. 19, 2009
Saturday: Air Force 37, Lobos 13
Up Next: New Mexico State at Lobos
When/Where: 8 p.m. Saturday, University Stadium
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In evaluating the tailback to carry the ball, and maybe the Lobos' fortunes, against New Mexico State, Lobo coach Mike Locksley says he needs to "look at the film."
Fair enough. But Lobo James Wright has to be hoping that Locksley will carry into the film room a stats sheet from the University of New Mexico's 37-13 Mountain West Conference loss to Air Force Saturday night in University Stadium.
Wow - Wright on his first carry of the season rambled 43 yards for Locksley's first TD as a head coach and UNM's first offensive TD of the season.
Wow - Wright ended the game with 126 yards, Locksley's second TD as a head man, and a school-record 25.2 yards per carry.
If the film room backs up the stats sheet, you might say Locksley found the Wright tailback.
""I think I should get my start, but I'll just see what happens and make the best of my opportunities when they come," said Wright.
Wright definitely took his opportunities by the horns Saturday night in front of 26,246 fans. His second TD romp went 84 yards. The sophomore tailback, who averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 2008, hit the left side of the UNM line and raced down the West sidelines while two quick Falcons gave chase. They didn't catch him.
"A running back is supposed to be one of the fastest guys on the team," said Wright. "It would have been embarrassing to get chased down from behind. But you never know what's going to happen and you know towards the end guys are going to be diving at your feet."
Wright in the backfield gave the Mike Locksley new-look Lobos a different look out of the no-huddle spread. But that wasn't the only shift.
Locksley also pulled senior quarterback Donovan Porterie in the first quarter and gave the huddle to redshirt freshman B.R. Holbrook. The change came after a Porterie interception was returned 38 yards for a Falcon TD that shoved UNM into a 17-0 first-quarter hole.
"The interception was a bad, bad decision by Donovan," said Locksley.
The decision to return Porterie to the huddle or stick with Holbrook also will be made in the film room. But the stats sheet won't help a whole lot in this decision.
Porterie was 4-of-8 with one pick for 29 yards. Holbrook was 8-of-15 with two picks for 73 yards. "That's up to coach. That's a tough call," Holbrook said, referring to getting the start. "I feel I'm capable. I feel I can lead this team."
Holbrook's interceptions weren't pretty either, but his third drive was a beauty.
The young Lobo opened the drive with a 29-yard pass to tight end Lucas Reed on a deep crossing route. Then Wright blasted up the midde for 43 yards. It was UNM's first offensive TD in 15 quarters.
The Lobos' problem against the Falcons was allowing them to convert 9-of-17 third downs and turning the ball over four times. Air Force got 10 points in the first quarter off a Demond Dennis fumble and Porterie's interception.
"The effort from the team was there," said Locksley, whose Lobos dropped to 0-3 on the season and 0-1 in MWC play. "I saw some light. We're going to build on that little bit of light."
Locksley also said he saw, "penalties, drops, interceptions, fumbles." Those are some of the things that doomed UNM in its loss to Air Force.
"We'll continue to tweak this thing until we get the right mix of players on the field," said Locksley. "And hopefully put an end to us beating ourselves."
No doubt the Lobos were generous to Air Force. But this also is a pretty good Air Force team, even without starting quarterback Tim Jefferson, who went out in the first quarter with an injury to his right ankle.
Air Force had 298 yards rushing, well below the 367 average it brought into the game. The Falcons ended with 371 total yards to 290 for UNM. Air Force won the time of possession battle 38:23 to 21:37. Thanks to the Lobos' help, Air Force kind of coasted to this win.
The Lobos' schedule, made for a program entering its 12th year (Rocky Long's), was expected to take a bite out of UNM this season. The playing field becomes more level Saturday when New Mexico State walks into University Stadium.
"We need to start making major steps," said UNM defensive tackle, Kendall Briscoe. "If there is a game we can't lose this season, it's this one (NMSU)."
Briscoe had eight tackles, a fumble recovery and blocked a field goal attempt. Sophomore linebacker Carmen Messina had a career-high 19 tackles and sophomore safety Bubba Forrest got his first career start and had ten tackles.
Dennis had a fumble, which helped Wright get his chance in the backfield, but Dennis had his best game with 57 yards on seven carries for an 8.1 average.
The Lobos' first offensive drive of the game wasn't bad. A couple of first downs ended in a 53-yard field goal attempt by James Aho. The low, line drive was blocked and Air Force's nasty option took over at the Falcons' 27-yard line.
It was the Falcons turn to try and march. They did -- to the UNM 25-yard line, which was pushed to the UNM 12-yard line on a face mask penalty. The Falcons finished with a 9-yard touchdown by Jonathan Warzeka on an end around. The misdirection play caught the Lobo defense leaning to their left and Warzeka turned the UNM corner on the other side, diving into the end zone. The drive went 65 yards in nine plays.
The UNM offense again showed promise against the Falcons defense, but a nice run by Demond Dennis ended in a fumble. Air Force took over at its 38-yard line and the flyboys from up North again looked like soldiers -- they marched.
Again, the march was aided by a face mask tackle. UNM's Frankie Baca and Tray Hardaway combined on a solid third-down stop and Air Force had to settle for a field goal and a 10-0 lead with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
The Lobos started their third drive on their 20-yard line. A movement penalty gave UNM a 3rd-and-10 and Porterie scrambled out of a shrinking pocket and forced a pass back across the field. It was picked off by Falcon Jon Davis at the UNM 38-yard line. Davis appeared to be stopped on his return, but made a nice cut and stayed on his feet. He ended up in the end zone with 49 seconds left in the quarter.
The Falcons flew into the second quarter with a 17-0 lead. The Lobos went into the quarter with a new quarterback. Holbrook was given the huddle as Porterie went to the bench.
The Lobos outgained Air Force on the ground in the first quarter, 78 yards to 74. The option-hungry Falcons had 33 yards through the sky to 16 for UNM. The Lobos gave up 10 points on their two turnovers. The Lobos won the time of possession battle by 18 seconds.
Holbrook's first drive ended with a sack. Air Force began its first drive of the second quarter with sophomore Connor Dietz in at the QB spot. Jefferson, the starting QB, was carried to the locker room in a golf cart.
The Lobos almost stopped the Falcons on a 4th-and-five, but missed by several inches. The Lobos held on the next possession and Falcon Erik Soderberg missed on a 40-yard field goal attempt, hampered by a high snap and a too-quick hold.
Holbrook came back out to lead the Lobos. He quickly got into a small jam thanks to a movement penalty that gave UNM a 3rd-and-15 at its 30-yard line. He put his defense into a bigger jam by throwing behind a receiver on a crossing route. The ball popped up and into the hands of Davis.
This time Davis didn't go all the way. But the Falcons' offense did: from the 45-yard line into the end zone. Savier Stephens rolled around the right end for the final six yards. It was 24-0 with 3:55 until the break.
Then the Lobos' quick-hit offense quickly hit. Holbrook connected with tight end Reed on a deep crossing route for 29 yards yards. Then Wright, who averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 2008, got his first carry of the season.
He bolted 43 yards for the score. The drive took 20 seconds. It went 72 yards on two plays. The Lobos messed up the point-after and settled for a 24-6 deficit.
UNM's defense held the Falcons on their next drive and a 42-yard field goal attempt by Soderberg was tipped and the Lobos marched into the half down by 18 -- 24-6 -- but carrying a little momentum.
Air Force had 187 yards rushing in the first half to 117 yards for UNM. The Falcons had 232 yards in total offense to 177 for the Lobos. The huge stat was the turnovers: three for UNM, none for Air Force. The Falcons won the time of possession battle 18:18 to 11:48 and scored on all three opportunities in the red zone.
The Falcons returned the opening kickoff of the second half 63 yards. UNM ended the drive on a great tackle by Kendall Briscoe, who came from behind the Air Force option to tackle Dietz for a loss. Air Force settled for a field goal and a 27-6 lead.
Holbrook again hurt the UNM defense with a pass over Bryant Williams' head that was picked off by Anthony Wright and returned to the UNM 8-yard line. The Lobo defense held tough, stuffed Air Force on a 3rd-and-4 tackle by Frankie Baca. Air Force again settled for a Soderberg field goal. The Falcons drifted ahead 30-6.
Holbrook was struggling, but Locksley gave him another shot. Three plays later, and two Falcon tackles for a loss, UNM was punting on a fourth-and 20 from it's 10-yard line. The Falcons started their drive on the UNM 32-yard line with the minutes in the quarter ticking away. UNM needed the ball. UNM needed to score.
Instead, the Falcons put the game away. Dietz rolled to his left and found Kevin Fogler open in the flats. Fogler broke a couple of tackles and scored on the 32-yard TD pass -- the first of Dietz's career. Air Force 37, UNM 6.
The Lobos went three and out and punted, but got the ball back on an Asher Clark fumble at the Air Force 45-yard line. Holbrook slipped going back to pass and UNM was looking at a 2nd-and-18. Holbrook got hit hard on the next play, stayed down for a couple of minutes, and Porterie came back into the huddle. UNM had a 4th-and-6 at the 19 and Porterie was sacked, ending the drive. The quarter ended 37-6.
Air Force ended the third quarter with 216 yards rushing to 100 for UNM. The Falcons had 289 yards in total offense and UNM had 198. UNM added another turnover, which was matched by Air Force. The big difference was UNM got no points off the Falcons' mistake. Air Force had now played three full quarters without a punt.
Holbrook came out to lead the Lobos in the fourth quarter. UNM's opening drive was hurt by a penalty which made it 1st-and-15 at UNM's 25-yard line. The Lobos punted the ball away with 12:33 to play. The Falcons started on their 33-yard line, looking to burn some time off the clock.
The Falcons did just that, staying on the ground until a fourth down pass play failed and turned the ball over to UNM with 3:13 to go. Air Force burned nine minutes off the clock. UNM took over at its 16-yard line. On the first play, Wright burst off the left side and raced down the West sideline 84 yards to score. UNM scratched to 37-13.
It was another quick hit for UNM. The play took 13 seconds.
Air Force started its final drive on its 7-yard line. The Falcons ran out the clock.