Oct. 30, 2009
What: Lobos at San Diego State
When/Where: 5:34 p.m., Saturday, Qualcomm Stadium
Radio: 770 KKOB-AM, Lobo Radio Network
TV: CBS College Sports (Comcast 274, DirecTV 613, Dish 152)
Online: GameTracker; game story on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
They stand as a band of Lobo brothers. They are freshmen and sophomores playing for juniors and seniors. They are seniors and juniors looking out for the young in the pack and making sure the pups know -- and see -- what it takes to grow into strong Lobos.
They stand against the odds, swallow the frustrations and media barbs that come with a winless season, and do the only thing they can do.
Sure, the odds are against this young team of University of New Mexico Lobos, which stands 0-7 going into the same kind of sharp teeth at the schedule's end that greeted them at the schedule's beginning.
They stand determined and united and do what any strong family does in a storm. They raise their chins to the elements coming their way, look around at who has their back, and are happy for the fight.
"We are all brothers here," said Lobo freshman Evan Jacobsen. "We all have the last name of Lobo.
"We are all playing for each other but there is a strong sense of playing for the seniors, too. As freshmen, you realize what they have gone through for four or maybe five years. You appreciate that. There is motivation to go out and do whatever you can to help them go out on a good note."
A good note would include a win or two, sure. But while you can't always change the numbers on the scoreboard, you can always effect what happens on the field -- and how you are judged -- through effort, pride, fearless determination.
"I'm always out there to play my best," said McPeek, a La Cueva High product. "It's also important to go out there and show the young guys how important it is to play hard and be competitive in everything you do as a Lobo. You have to show a positive attitude."
Said Baca: "As a competitor, you learn not to waste any opportunities."
The Lobos' next opportunity comes Saturday in San Diego State. The 3-4 Aztecs are home and on a little roll. There is some fan sentiment that Lobo coach Mike Locksley should forget about the numbers of 2009 and build for 2010 by going even more to his younger Lobos.
In a way, that is silly talk. Locksley has no choice but to go young because he's been doing that all season. The program he inherited is full of pups. Locksley also has great respect for any football player, who has put in four or five years of good work. They have earned their time on the field. They are needed, too.
"I still want to win football games and I have a senior class that hasn't quit on us," said Locksley. "I'm not going to do them the disservice of playing guys who aren't ready to play for the sake of rebuilding. I'm not going to do that to this senior class."
The senior class is well represented on the two-deep chart Locksley takes to San Diego: Baca, McPeek, Donovan Porterie, Daryl Jones, Erik Cook, Joshua Taufalele, Ben Contreras, Ivan Hernandez, Victor James, Adam Miller, DeAndre Davis, Kendall Briscoe, Tray Hardaway, Frankie Solomon.
Locksley came into the 2009 season talking about a renovation project and not a rebuilding year. He has refused to talk about some major holes left by the previous program, but has praised the talent. A lot of that talent is young. Consider just a few young facts:
-- There are no juniors or seniors in UNM's top four rushing stats and the top two receivers are freshmen.
-- Only three Lobos on defense had more than two starts coming into the 2009 season and going into the SDSU game only six active players have more than eight career starts as Lobos.
-- 96 percent of rushing yards, 46 percent of the receiving yards, and 53 percent of tackles belong to freshmen or sophomores.
Again, Locksley doesn't have to force the youth movement. It's already there and the seniors see great advantages in that early tossing of Lobos into the fire.
"The more experience you get, the better off you are with on-field reactions, reads, confidence, everything," said Baca. "It's a great opportunity for them to get better."
Said McPeek: "There is no substitute for playing time. It helps you, big time. The speed in games is so different and you can never simulate game experiences in practice."
It remains to be seen if the Lobos' next game experience brings joy to the UNM side of the scoreboard. Of course, that matters. In another way, it is not so important.
The scoreboard might reflect a winning team, but it does not define an athlete. That definition comes on the field of play. There, the Lobos plan to stand -- win or lose -- as a winning team of brothers.