Stevens: Lobos Need To Cut Down On Mistakes to Play With Utah
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  09/14/2010
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Sept. 14, 2010

Lobo Football
Up Next:
No. 14 Utah at Lobos
When/Where: 6 p.m., University Stadium
On The Air: The Mtn; 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network
Online: GameTracker, quotes, game story on GoLobos.com

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

With a ranked Utah team steamrolling toward Mike Locksley's Lobos, you can understand why so many numbers and stats encouraged and disappointed the Lobo coach in Saturday's loss to Texas Tech.

The Lobos had a chance to be in the game with Tech. They had a chance to play well and build confidence for No. 14 ranked Utah's 6 p.m. visit to University Stadium. Instead, Locksley said mistakes and "not playing smart" pushed the Lobos away from their shot to upset the Red Raiders of Lubbock.

OK, maybe it wasn't a game the Lobos should have won. They shot themselves in the foot and on the scoreboard. And surely, there are stats and numbers that upset the Texas Tech staff - like Lobo Chris Hernandez's 45-yard score off a B.R. Holbrook fumble.

But you turn around a few of the mistakes and a few of the bad breaks and it was conceivable that the Lobos could have been in this game at the end.

Let's do a little wishful thinking with some of those mistakes and stats and see what we come up with.

We'll start with the 52-17 final and take away the quick and easy 14 points the Red Raiders threw on the board thanks to breakdowns on the UNM punting team.

That makes the score 38-17. Now, let's take away the easy TD the Raiders notched after a 93-yard kickoff return that came out of the Tech end zone.

That makes the score 31-17. Now, let's kick in the Lobo score by Lucas Reed that was taken away and put those points on the UNM board. That makes it 31-24.

Let's go a bit bananas and toss in the touchdown that Joe Stoner was strolling to after intercepting a pass. Unfortunately, the UNM linebacker dropped the ball as he was bringing it to his hip. Give UNM that score and it's 31-all and the teams are going into overtime.

"We are not going to get used to losing," said Stoner. "We are going to win games. We are going to get this thing turned around on all phases."

You can see through this fantasy flashback that there is one sure way to help turn this thing around: quit helping the other team beat you. Sure, there is a lot of well wishing in this flip-the-score scenario, but all these things could have happened for the Lobos. The Lobos probably could have cut down on their 16 penalties, too. Just one of those penalties cost the Lobos a shot at a James Aho field goal just before half.

"It seems like every week there is just something," said Lobo quarterback B.R. Holbrook "This week it definitely was penalties."

Of course, Tech might have found other ways to reach the scoreboard, but the Lobos played the Santa Claus role too much in this 52-17 loss.

The point Locksley is trying to make to his Lobos is that if they don't hurt themselves with mistakes and penalties again, they might have a chance to beat the Utes in the fourth quarter this Saturday in UNM's Mountain West Conference opener.

"We have to find a way to stop turnovers and find a way to execute better," he said. "We also have to find a way to get personnel on the field that can run down and cover kicks."

The Lobos played Tech fairly even on the stat sheets. Tech had 24 first downs. UNM had 23. Tech had 462 total to 433 for the Lobos. The Lobos had the ball 33:41 to 26:19 for Tech and, yes, UNM took away some of the clock for Tech by gift-wrapping a short field.

Maybe the biggest improvement vs. Tech was the Lobo offense and the performance of Holbrook. UNM went 7-of-18 on third down conversions to 7-of-14 for Tech. Holbrook went 30-of-50 through the air for 323 yards. He threw some great passes. He looked more like the Holbrook who looked super in fall camp.

You take away the Holbrook interception when UNM had a first down at the Tech 10-yard line, and the Lobos probably are looking at more points. Hey, doesn't that put UNM up 38-31?

There aren't too many Lobo fans naïve enough to take away the Lobo mistakes and turn it into a victory. Tech could play the same fantasy game with numbers and come up with a 58-10 win. But it would be interesting to see what a scoreboard looked like without so many Lobo errors and special team mess ups contributing to that score.

Against Utah - if the Lobos want to be hanging around on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter - it's probably a necessity that they don't play Santa Claus to the Utes.