Another season starts for UNM and The Red Menace. All the talking and speculating is finished, all the lame pre-season questions are done. "How is DonTrell's knee, what about the spread offense, how good is the defense, will you be able to replace Speegle, how is the O-line, what about the kicking game… Well all questions were answered Monday right? Ummm… maybe not!
There is no doubt the Lobos new "spread offense" produces points and in an exciting fashion as UNM jumped out on UNLV quickly 17-0 the crowd was amped up, the players were amped up and I would say that many of us felt that Bryan Clampitt would be mopping up in the 2nd half. UNLV was shell-shocked on both offense and defense early as the Lobo Machine was rolling… rolling… rolling… sputter… cough… cough…
"We came out with lots of fire and just went out there and played, and we made plays. I think we had a serious lack of focus after that first quarter success and that's something we really need to work on. We eased up a little bit since we were 17 points up. –Lobo QB Kole Mc Kamey
I believe this quote might just sum up the entire offensive and defensive performance of UNM's on Monday morning. Kole who I believe who we were told can't throw the ball and would be one of the worst QB's in the conference showed that my prediction of an all-MWC performer is not far off as McKamey led the Lobos on a nice 13 play precision passing drive that ended in a field goal by Kenny Byrd, followed up by a 47 yard bomb to Hank Baskett, and a 10 yard pass to DonTrell Moore who walked into the end zone untouched. At this point I don't believe McKamey had misfired on one pass and the route was on…
"We eased up a little bit since we were 17 points up."
A strange thing happened en route to the blowout. The offense hit a bugaboo and there was undoubtedly some cockiness going on as all of a sudden they stopped hitting on all cylinders, 3 and outs became the norm, dropped passes, bad snaps, fumbles. They had their foot on the necks of UNLV and failed to give the final push to snap it.
I believe that everyone felt it as well as the defense was all of a sudden missing sure tackles, and giving up some big plays. Shoot, even the fans felt it as it sweltering hot in the stadium, and things started to quiet down anticipating the blowout.
I can recall in the 2nd quarter as both Lobo offense and defense just kind of stopped and UNLV had just scored their first touchdown. Thank the gods of the gridiron that Segio Aguayo wasn't very accurate during warm-ups and it showed during his 1st extra point opportunity as he missed badly. Unfortunately, once the Lobos eased up just a little it was a little tough to get that 1st quarter flow rolling again and the Lobos go into the locker room with a 17-6 lead and a sense of unease.
UNLV came out in the 3rd quarter and started a nice drive that brought them down to 1st and goal in The Red Menace Zone… I don't know how it sounded on television or radio, but I can tell you how it sounded on row 1 seat 13. It was freaking loud! The defense had to stiffen up and that is exactly what happened as UNLV ended up picking 2 delay of game penalties. After the Lobos stiffened and held UNLV to the field goal it was great seeing all the players pointing and thanking The Red Menace Zone for bringing the noise and being part of the game. Special thanks to Blake Ligon who was excited as can be.
During halftime I told Dom I didn't know how long The Rock was going to go with the spread offense as it was sputtering at that point, whether that was UNLV making adjustments or UNM just playing flat I cant' say. Sure enough the Lobos went to their bread and brother, Two-tights, a fullback, and smash mouth. And immediately the anti-Dodd crowd was ranting and raving, and the Fire Dan Dodd crowd was yakking. Of course they shut their mouth as the offense moved, showed some life and Kole Mc Kamey went up top to Hank Baskett for a spectacular 48-yard reception from Hank setting up 1st and goal from the one. DonTrell powered in and Dodd was back in good graces… well almost.
The Lobo offense going back and forth with spread and smash mouth just wasn't happening as the early offensive spark was missing and the defense was holding on barely as UNLV was able to come up with big play strikes bringing the game to 24-16 and Lobo fans as well as coaches had to be just shocked as a potential MWC championship run looked in jeopardy early.
It was the last few minutes of the game though that were some of the worst as UNLV was pinned with their backs to The Red Menace and the noise level exploded once again. Credit to UNLV QB Steichen who spotted D. Wheaton streaking down the sidelines and hit him with a 39-yard pass to escape our evil clutches… UNLV moved the ball at will as Steichen danced for a 27 yard gain where he looked to be trapped on the sideline, and eventually scoring a touchdown. UNLV was desperate for a 2-point conversion when Aleem Harris using his massive body kept the UNLV running back out of the end zone to put the score at 24-22.
Still there was the onside kick and the kicking team never recovers that right? WRONG! UNLV is able to recover the onside kick and needing only a touchdown everyone's heart was in their throats… UNLV QB drops back to drive the dagger in the Lobo hearts when Gabriel Fulbright makes one of his biggest interceptions sealing the victory and allowing the Lobos team to post their first tombstone UNM 24-UNLV 22
Things I liked
Spread offense was great in the 1st quarter, as Mc Kamey looked in complete control of the offense leading UNM to a 17-0 lead.
Lobo defense gave up big plays but stepped up when their backs were up against the wall, hate the cliché but whatcha gonna do?
DonTrell Moore was on the field and looking good. That 3rd and forever shovel pass run was a thing of beauty.
Matthew Quillen is the MAN as far as a blocker. I know Rocky commented on it during media day but man was I impressed watching this young man smother UNLV defenders.
Former Lobo teams would have found a way to end up losing this game and hanging their head for the rest of the season. UNM found a way to win, and rather than enjoy it and think they are all big and bad. They are pissed at themselves for keeping it that close. I love the fact they aren't going to settle for a win, they want to win convincingly.
Things I didn't like
UNM still has a tough time enjoying prosperity as they nearly gave this one up. I would have much rather seen them snap UNLV's neck when they had the chance.
Didn't see enough Rodney Ferguson.
Rocky told us it was going to be this way, but there were times the safeties and corners looked lost.
UNLV picked up the onside kick after the ball is batted around. Rather than bat it up for them would have rather seen the ball go to the 2nd tier of players.
Offensive Player of the Game
#18 Hank Baskett 6-132 yards 1 touchdown and just spectacular catches. I don't know if anyone talked about the 1st quarter pass where Hank was interfered with, he nearly made the unbelievable one handed catch as he was on the ground, sliding away… The guy is amazing!
Defensive Player of the Game
#27 Aleem Harris 6 tackles and 1 pass broken up in his 1st game as a Lobo, but it was his stop on the 2-point conversion attempt by UNLV late in the game that helped ensure the Lobo victory.
#31 Matthew Quillen You won't see his name on any stats except for 1 tackle on special teams, but his blocking skills were amazing watching him obliterate Runnin' Rebels on Monday!
Finally, the Lobos became complacent and it nearly bit them on the tail. I don't expect for that to ever happen again as this is a mature team and a good coaching staff. So while some questions were answered, there are a whole new set that have come up and must be answered Saturday vs. Missouri!