Sept. 4, 2009
What: Lobos at Texas A&M
When: 5 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 5
Radio: 770 KKOB-AM. TV: None
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
When you crack open a new era, you need to look beyond Xs and Os, no-huddle offenses and the tangibles of this smash-mouth game of football. You need to get in touch with something emotional and passionate found in a deep, inner pocket that logic has yet to invade.
You have to taste and savor this game, this moment, this beginning, with your heart and your dreams and maybe even your gut. This is a visceral thing. You tell reason to stay away for a while.
It's this way when the Mike Locksley era of University of New Mexico football unveils itself in the hostile and intimidating confines of a massive structure and a massive tradition called Kyle Field.
Sure, the moment and the movement officially begins when Locks' Lobos hook up with Texas A&M Aggies and battle over a football in the heart of Texas. Sure, there are important game matters such as how UNM's no-huddle, multi-Lobo attack will look and how the always-aggressive Lobo defense adjusts to their new 4-3 face.
Sure, individual play from Donovan Porterie, Demond Dennis, Jaymar Latchison, Ian Clark, Frankie Solomon, Frankie Baca, Carmen Messina, Clint McPeek, James Aho, Kendall Briscoe, Erik Cook, Joshua Taufalele, etc., will be vital to Lobo success.
But those are game things. What happens in College Station isn't something to be documented merely on the scoreboard = win or lose.
As much as anything, this encounter with A&M Aggies is the unveiling of grandiose Lobo hopes and dreams. This is the first step in what many fans see as a strong stride into a promising future. This is why Paul Krebs, UNM's Vice President in charge of athletics, hired Locksley and didn`t talk Rocky Long off the ledge.
The experts from coast-to-coast predict this will be a tough season for UNM's first-year head coach in his first go-around as the top guy in a program. The Lobos have been projected to win as few as a single game.
The Mountain West Conference poll slipped the Lobos into the No. 7 hole probably a reflection of UNM's 4-8 season of 2008 and probably a reflection of all the newness coming into the Lobo program.
That's the reality stuff. It's fair stuff, too. Sometimes a new offense doesn't click for a while, for a season. Sometimes you are just too far behind teams like Utah, TCU and BYU to leap at them in a single bound and in a single season.
But sometimes you have to juggle that reality with what you see in front of you. Locksley appears to be a first-class catch both as a head coach and as a recruiter. It's probably fair to say in his abbreviated recruiting period he brought in as much pure talent as Rocky Long did in any of his 11 seasons.
But did Locksley bring in the toughness, the team-first discipline, the chip-on-the-shoulder anger?
It's also probably fair to say that the first-year staff of Locksley's rivals any All-Star coaching staff you could throw together from the Long era. These Locksley guys can coach. They have Hall of Fame resumes. But is the talent they are trying to mold into winners in 2009 too young, not yet ready, not yet deep enough?
Lots of questions -- about the season, about the A&M game which favors the Aggies and not the visitors from the West. "We know it's a challenge," said Locksley. "But it's also an opportunity."
One way to look at any game is to pretend you live in some faraway spot like Rolla, N.D. or maybe Blythe, Calif., and predict the game as if you had no emotional ties or interest in the outcome.
In that case, a guy from Rolla might say Texas A&M 35, New Mexico 14. It would be a reasonable guess. The A&M staff is in its second year. Kyle Field is worth 14 points. The Lobos are pups. A&M is a finishing school for NFL talent.
Again, you become a juggler. You swallow the reality of the challenge ahead of the Lobos and you consider what you have seen on the Lobo practice fields.
You have seen Donovan Porterie throw, react and act better than ever. You see in Demond Dennis and A.J. Butler maybe the best 1-2 running punch the Lobos have had in years. You see a massive and focused offensive line charged by Erik Cook and Joshua Taufalele. You see a host of talented receivers hungry to catch the ball.
"I don't think they (A&M) are expecting that much from us. That means they'll be surprised at what they get."
Lobo Defensive End Jaymar Latchison
On defense, you see the energy of Jaymar Latchison, the passion of Ian Clark, the focus of Clint McPeek, the determination of Frankie Solomon and Frankie Baca, the power of Kendall Briscoe. Hey, this is a quick, athletic bunch and they might just wear those big Aggies down.
"I like this team," said Locksley. "These guys have that `it' factor. There is something about them, the way they act, the way they go about their business."
It's similar with Locksley and his staff, too. They have that `it' factor that makes you prepare for good things. Surely, down the road. Maybe at College Station.
"I don't think they (A&M) are expecting that much from us," said Latchison. "That means they'll be surprised at what they get. Come and watch."
Yeah, it would be a great game to watch and not simply because of what a scoreboard shows after a single day of effort. A era of UNM football will be cracked open in College Station. We can't wait to take a peek inside.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner