By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
Today’s lesson in Lobo football: Getting from Point A to Point B with a little oomph at Point B.
The University of New Mexico football team took part in its first spring practice in full pads on Saturday under absolutely perfect conditions on the practice fields south of University Stadium.
The emphasis so far this spring has been on a more up-tempo routine during practice, so when the pads came on, so did the hitting with the higher rate of speed during everything.
The Lobos’ first big test in the pads came during the chute drill, in which a ball-carrier has a blocker in front of him and must get past two defenders in with a certain boundary on the field.
And the first big hit came on the first play. As the blocker engaged with a defender, junior cornerback Donnie Duncan moved around the pile and nailed the ball-carrier with a clean-sounding “whack!” of the pads and drove him out of bounds.
That got the defense whooping and hollering and set the tempo for a physical 10 minutes of the drill.
“I was just trying to lead by example, show everybody this is how you do it,” said Duncan, who came to UNM as a wide receiver but converted to defensive back last season. “As the first up, you gotta set the tone; that’s what I wanted to do.
“Just getting from Point A to Point B, being full speed when you do it and just know there’s no letup. When you get to Point B, bring some ‘oomph’ with it. That’s what (defensive coordinator Kevin) coach Cosgrove has been stressing, A to B and bring some ‘oomph.’ ”
Coach Bob Davie allowed the team to engage in live contact on the first day of full pads for the first time since he arrived in 2012. With great numbers in practice and the emphasis on going full speed, Davie said he wanted to see how his team responded and what they look like in game-like conditions.
“It’s the first time I’ve done that and first time we’ve been able to do that here at New Mexico,” Davie said. “What we have to do is simulate as much as we can and not sugarcoat things. We’ve got to put the ball down and go and see what happens, that’s kind of the next step for us.
“We kind of know what to do and we have some things we feel better about but the bottom line is we’ve got to see where we are.”
Another example of the impact of the hits was that senior linebacker Toby Ball had a collision with a defensive blocker during the drill and bent his facemask on the play and had to have another one put on his helmet.
“We looked a little sleepy in the locker room but everybody came out and did work,” said sophomore defensive end Nik D’Avanzo. “The energy was really good out there.”
Both sides of the ball had their moments during practice. During a five-minute team passing drill, the defense did not allow a completed pass in eight attempts and had an interception.
“We couldn’t blame the wind on our passing game,” Davie quipped afterward, talking about the weather.
Later during a goal line running drill, the offense scored on seven of 10 possessions.
“It actually feels like a real practice,” Gongbay said of the padded practice. “With this, it makes the intensity a lot higher, makes you want to play a lot harder. We’ve got young guys that really want to play, and the offseason was so good that everyone’s in better shape. Everyone can go harder, give that extra ‘oomph,’ get extra few hits in.”
Gongbay refused to go down during the chute drill. On a couple of occasions, the defender was able to push him out of the boundary to end the play, but he never fell to the ground.
“The chute drill is one of my favorites,” he said. “I just go in there not wanting to be tackled.”