Lobos to work out kinks on defense

Steve Virgen
Albuquerque Journal

New Mexico football coach Bob Davie said Incarnate Word's final touchdown left a bad taste in the Lobos' collective mouths. That certainly could be the case for bettors who took UNM to cover its 34 1/2 -point spread.

The Cardinals' final touchdown could definitely be a candidate for Scott Van Pelt's Bad Beats. The ESPN anchor would roll the tape of the improbable TD. UIW freshman wide receiver Brandon McDuffie scooped up a fumble from running back teammate, freshman Ameer King, and ran it in for a 4-yard score with 58 seconds left.

Final score: Lobos 62, Incarnate Word 30.

Afterward, Davie, at times, spoke as if his Lobos lost, but they indeed won their fourth straight season opener Saturday night at Dreamstyle Stadium.

"It was tackling and losing a little bit of confidence," Davie said of the UNM defense that gave up 566 yards of total offense, including 322 passing yards. "I give credit where credit is due. We have to improve on this and I think we will."

Quarterback Tevaka Tuioti, who threw for a career-high 327 yards and four touchdowns, and also ran in for a score, credited the offensive line for a night that featured plenty of highlight-reel type plays. Davie, in particular, talked about sophomore transfer Kyle Stapley, the Lobos' 6-foot-3, 307-pound center.

"The thing I'm most excited about," Davie said. "We played a new center, Kyle Stapley. He played guard in junior college (Snow College in Ephraim, Utah). Came here in the summer. Wasn't here for spring practice. Basically played every down and did a really good job with the shotgun snaps. That's encouraging."

The Lobos completed seven passing plays of over 30 yards. Last year, they had 10 such plays for the whole season.

UNM rang up 680 yards of total offense, including 91 plays, resulting in great balance with 319 rushing yards and 361 passing yards.

The Lobos' defense, that had so much stability and experience in the backfield, fell short in its season debut.

UIW freshman quarterback Jon Copeland threw for 328 yards and one touchdown, including a sensational opening drive that had the Lobos on their heels.

Phillip Baptiste, the Cardinals' leading receiver last year, led UIW with 112 yards and one touchdown on six catches. Lamont Johnson compiled 103 receiving yards on four catches.

"I give them credit," Davie said. "They are talented. I talked to (UIW coach) Eric (Morris) after the game. He told me that two of those receivers (Baptiste and Johnson) would start at Texas Tech right now."

Morris was the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech for five seasons before taking the job at UIW.

UNM also gave up a 90-yard touchdown run to Ra'Quanne Dickens, who finished with 110 yards on seven carries. He was ejected after the long score for his second unsportsmanlike penalty.

UNM wide receiver Q' Drennan went up high for a sensational 40-yard reception. But when he came down he injured his hip. The Lobos have yet to announce results on his status.

Backup quarterback Coltin Gerhart, who had a 1-yard touchdown run, injured his foot. After the game, Davie said the injury didn't appear to be serious.

Davie said Andrew Shelley (Eldorado), a walk-on redshirt freshman place-kicker, performed well with eight successful PATs. He missed one PAT.

Punter Tyson Dyer also stood out with three punts for 146 yards (48.7 average), including one that landed inside the 20.

Dylan Kelly-Romero had three touchbacks out of eight of his kickoffs.

UNM will be in a role reversal on Saturday when the Lobos play at No. 4 Wisconsin. Kickoff is scheduled for 10 a.m. (Mountain time)

The Badgers opened their season with a 34-3 win over visiting Western Kentucky on Friday. Running back Jonathan Taylor, a Heisman Trophy candidate, rushed for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.

The game is Saturday, New Mexico at Wisconsin, 10 a.m.TV: Big Ten Network, or onthe radio at  770-AM/94.5 FM.