Bob Davie isn't ready to declare this season a success just yet.
The veteran head coach, now in his first season at New Mexico, has watched his team lose three conference games in a row, sagging the Lobos' record to 4-6.
“We're right in the middle of it right now,” Davie said Tuesday. “Like every team, we have had some adversity to face.”
But the adversity Davie's team is dealing with -- a thin roster that has been further depleted due to a recent string of injuries -- makes the success the Lobos have had this year that much more impressive. The team's four wins this season (against Southern, New Mexico State, Texas State and Hawaii) are more than the team had in its last three seasons combined.
The Lobos used to be a joke, a pushover. Not so much anymore.
“It is quite obvious New Mexico is a much-improved football team than in the past few years,” Wyoming coach Dave Christensen said. “Bob has done a tremendous job of turning that program around, getting some wins and competing well.”
Davie — who went 35-25 in five seasons as Notre Dame's head coach before working as an ESPN analyst — overhauled New Mexico's offense as soon as he got to Albuquerque, N.M. He installed a run-first option offense that took advantage of the team's big offensive line and consistent running backs. As a result, the Lobos average 303 rushing yards per game, second-best in the Mountain West.
“They've done a nice job at installing that, because it's very, very different to what they inherited,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said Tuesday. “To be able to get the athletes that were recruited for a different system to play as efficiently as they do has been very impressive.”
DeRuyter's team nearly gave Davie's team its biggest win of the year.
Fresno State, the team now tied with San Diego State for the best record in the Mountain West (5-1), had to fight back from a 21-point deficit to beat the Lobos on Oct. 27. New Mexico running back Kasey Carrier torched the Bulldogs usually-tough defense for 136 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He averaged 7.2 yards per carry.
“What it forces you to do is play assignment football," DeRuyter said. "You can't just have 11 guys chasing the brown belly. As soon as you do that the quarterback pulls it, if someone is not playing his responsibility, then he pitches it. Big plays happen. That's exactly what happened to us.”
DeRuyter's Bulldogs rallied in that game and ended with a 49-32 win. It was a frustrating loss for New Mexico, but also a sign of how much its team has improved in one year.
"I don't know if it was a shock," Christensen, whose Cowboys play New Mexico this weekend, said. "But it was a surprise to everyone."