New Mexico Lobos Football – Homecoming -- vs. UNLV Rebels
When/Where: 6 p.m., (MT) – Branch Field – University Stadium
On The Air: ROOT Sports; 770-AM KKOB/Lobo Radio Network, ESPN Deportes (1450-AM)
GoLobos.com: Game Story, Complete Statistics, LoboTV
Promotions: UNM Homecoming; Postgame Balloon Glow Courtesy of Rainbow Ryders, Hot Air Balloon Ride Company
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
It was a game played a season ago in a different city by two teams that have changed enough to make Saturday’s clash between Lobos and Rebels on Branch Field more of a 2013 thing.
But not entirely. The mind doesn’t always let go of bad memories and bad tastes and a lot of Lobos still recall the bitterness of New Mexico’s 35-7 loss at Vegas.
“That score was an embarrassment to me,” said Lobo senior O-tackle, Darryl Johnson. “We had a good season going and we kind of let it get away. This game means a lot to me.
“We got punched in the mouth at Pitt and we let them dictate the game. The same thing happened last year at UNLV. We didn’t show up and play how we wanted to play and it showed up on the film and on the scoreboard.”
Lobo Coach Bob Davie doesn’t hold back any punches either when looking back on that 35-7 count. He said the atmosphere in the New Mexico locker room after the game was “brutal.”
“They pounded us last year,” said the second-year Lobo coach. “That was a brutal feeling up there. I think we all remember that game.”
Davie was quick to credit UNLV for the pounding. They smashed out 241 yards on the ground and 289 through the air to amass 530 total yards in offense. . UNLV brought a 1-8 mark into that contest and UNM was 4-5 and trying to scratch out a bowl-eligible season.
Davie said it was the “most disappointing performance” of the season because it was a game that was supposed to be competitive on the field and on the scoreboard.
So, the Lobos try again….
“We got smacked around last year,” said senior tight end, Andrew Aho. “We pride ourselves on being a physical team and they out-hit us and we had a sour taste after that game.
“We came out flat last year. We’ve been preparing not to come out flat on Saturday and show them who we really are and not the team they saw last year.”
Said senior D-back, Dante Caro: “I think when you lose to someone badly, you always have a little extra (motivation).”
The Lobos are still a young team on both sides of the football and still a team that has not proven its passing game is a weapon to be feared. That was part of the problem a year ago in Vegas. UNM ran for 307 yards, but threw for only 43. Vegas had two runners go over the 100-yard mark, but also passed for 289 yards.
The Rebels come to Branch Field on a two-game win streak – the first ever back-to-back wins in the Coach Bobby Hauck (6-23) era at Vegas. Hauck, in his fourth season at UNLV, would love to get that first-ever three-game win streak.
“UNLV is a good-looking team,” said Aho. “They are long and big and they play physical and fast. We have to do the same things back. We didn’t play like we normally play last year against them and it went downhill from the beginning. We have to change things from the beginning this year.”
For sure, the Rebels will come at the Lobos with the same ferocity they displayed a year ago in Vegas. They still have an advantage in experience – and size. They also have a hot quarterback in Caleb Herring, who has completed 42 of 54 passes (77.8 percent) in leading UNLV to its past two wins.
The Rebels are a multiple threat. They average 189 yards on the ground behind Tim Cornett (79.8 per game) and Shaquille Murray-Lawrence (66.2). Vegas also has a big-time threat on the other end of Herring’s passes: Devante Davis, who averages 4.5 grabs and 77.2 receiving yards per game.
The Rebs also are playing well. After falling behind Central Michigan 21-0, UNLV, behind Herring, outscored Central Michigan and Western Illinois 69-7.
“They have a good crew and they are pretty big,” said UNM’s Caro. “Herring is going a good job for them. They have turned it up since he took over.”
Editor’s Note: Richard Stevens is a former award-winning Sports Columnist and Associate Sports Editor at The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.