Sept. 12, 2009
What:Lobos vs. Tulsa
When/Where: 6:06 p.m. today, University Stadium
Radio: 770-AM KKOB; Lobo Radio Network.
TV: The Mtn (Comcast 276, DirecTV 616)
Online: GameTracker, results on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Come party with the Lobos. Come party with your neighbor. Be a part of the community. Be active, not passive. That should be a major message to Lobo fans today when the University of New Mexico Lobos play ball with the pass-happy Tulsa Golden Hurricane.
The pageantry, the opportunity, of collegiate football was tossed into the face of all Lobos a week ago when the Lobos visited College Station in Texas and 70,000-plus showed up for a night of football. The Texas A&M Aggies had close to 40,000 for a midnight, pre-game pep rally.
The fan support, the tradition, is why the Aggies (4-8 in 2008) lure some of the top football talent in Texas, in the nation, to College Station. It's where the Lobos plan and hope to go. Part of the growth is Lobo coach Mike Locksley's plan to change the face of Lobo football and build a high-octane offense to package with a solid defense. It's a growth that will take time.
When he gets there, it will be a fan-friendly offense of movement and points. Before he gets there, he needs a community to rally behind his Lobos.
When ex-Lobo coach Rocky Long walked away from the Lobo football program he loved, he said UNM needed to go find a miracle worker to take the program to the level envisioned by Lobo fans. However, the tough former UNM quarterback was quick to point out that one of UNM's biggest needs was fans in the stands -- simple support.
He thought football was an easy thing, a fun thing, to support. It gave fans a chance to flee the real pressures of life and jump into a world of escapism. He didn't understand why some fans wasted those few and special days.
Today would be a good day to escape. Tulsa is good. Can you help your Lobos pull an upset? Do you like tossing down a hot dog on a warm New Mexico evening surrounded by thousands of other people trying to build something good?
"It's always so nice to play in front of your fans," said Lobo defensive end Jaymar Latchison. "We can't wait to get out there."
The Lobos get that chance at 6 p.m. for their home opener. It's a special time for football players. It should be a special time for fans, too. Many communities cherish their football moments because of everything that moment represents.
And there aren't that many of them: today, Sept. 19 vs. Air Force, Sept. 26 vs. New Mexico State, Oct. 24 vs. UNLV, Nov. 14 vs. Brigham Young, Nov. 23 vs. Colorado State. Not a bad home slate. Not an easy slate.
UNM and New Mexico is working hard to raise the level of competition for all Lobos. If you come to University Stadium today, glance over at The Pit. The old girl is going to be a modern beauty. You can already feel the energy bubbling.
University Stadium can be a beautiful thing, too -- when it's packed with 40,000 fans.
The Tulsa game could be a great one. You can't make that a guarantee because the Lobos are young and putting in a new offense and a new defense. If you study the stats and results of programs that make such changes, they have to fight through some hard times.
The Lobos had a hard time in College Station, losing 41-6. Tulsa is coming off a 37-13 whipping of Tulane. Tulsa beat UNM 56-14 last year and that was a UNM program in its 11th season.
The Golden Hurricane have a solid young quarterback in G.J. Kinne, who completed 15-of-20 passes against Tulane and had 299 total yards. "Tulsa is a challenge," said Locksley. "They run around pretty good."
After you party in the parking lot with the other Lobo fans, come in and watch Latchison, Kendall Briscoe, Clint McPeek, Johnathan Rainey and other Lobo defenders target Kinne. These Lobos have to get to Kinne. It will be an interesting chase.
The Hurricane have similar thoughts on their side of the football. Lobo senior quarterback Donovan Porterie had a solid game in the loss at A&M going 29-of-40 for 210 yards. "I thought he had pretty good pocket presence," said Locksley. "He got sacked five times, got up and continued to play."
Tulsa has some accomplished headhunters in Tanner Antle, Mike Bryan and DeAundre Brown. Watch these guys. They'll be watching Porterie.
Another key Hurricane is Damaris Johnson. He blew past Tulane for 252 all-purpose yards and ran back a punt for a TD. He can hurt the Lobos with points, yardage and the all-important field position.
Yeah, lots of good things to look for. Locksley will be looking up into the stands, too.
"Our fans don't realize the importance they can have on the outcome of a football game, by supporting us, creating a home-field advantage, creating energy," he said. "I'd like to see every seat filled from the minute we walk out."
This week Locksley used the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." It also takes a village, a community, to raise/build a football program.
Let the building begin today.
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