On the Other Sideline

By By Tom Quinn

By Tom Quinn

New Mexico’s football team has a history of starting the season slowly and finishing with a bang. And judging by last week’s come-from-behind 39-36 win at UNLV, the Lobos are on track to do it again.

“There was a lot of time when our team could have folded their tents,” said head coach Rocky Long of the win. “That was a pretty special thing for a young football team to be playing that poorly?and then to come out and play well enough in the second half to?eventually win the game.”

Over the last four years, New Mexico has won 20 conference games, second only to Utah’s 22. Strange as it may seem, the majority of those wins has come after Oct. 15; the Lobos are 21-6 in games played after that date.

“I think it’s because we develop players here. We don’t recruit blue-chip guys off of blue-chip lists,” Long said. “We have really good kids that work really hard and it takes us awhile to develop them.”

Although the Lobos have been far from dominant over the first half of the season, the majority of their losses could be attributed to inexperience and injuries. In addition to losing all but 10 starters to graduation, head coach Rocky Long has struggled to break in four new assistant coaches.

Furthermore, starting quarterback Kole McKamey, the man who was supposed to be the backbone of the Lobos’ offense, was lost for the season when he went down with a knee injury in a game against New Mexico State on Sept. 9.

While last week’s win in Las Vegas may have been a turning point for Long’s unit, the fact that the Lobos’ inconsistency rivals even that of the Utes makes even the most dramatic of wins inconclusive.

New Mexico, which has been superb on the road this season, has struggled to win at home. The Lobos were embarrassed by lowly Portland State in a 10-point loss in the first week of the season, and have won only one game in Albuquerque since.

Redshirt freshman Donovan Porterie, who completed 13 of 27 passes for 168 yards with one touchdown and one interception against UNLV, will make his first career start in front of a home crowd. Lobo fans can only hope that Porterie has the same kind of success that fellow freshman Karsten Sween had against the Utes in Laramie.

“I thought Donovan played well for his first start,” said Long of Porterie’s performance against UNLV. “Whenever you put a freshman in there and it’s his first start, you never know what to expect, but we didn’t turn the ball over a lot and he managed the game well.”

Porterie will likely be counting on junior wide receiver Travis Brown to have a big night against Utah’s defense. Brown leads the Lobos and ranks fifth in the conference with 32 catches, and has a knack for making plays when his team needs him most.

The Lobos, who have struggled running the ball all season long, hope that their physical offensive line will be able to establish themselves against Utah’s defensive front. UNM ranks 103rd in the country in rushing offense, as the Lobos have little depth behind sophomore Rodney Ferguson, who ranks second in the conference in rushing.

The New Mexico defense will be led by junior safety Tyson Ditmore and sophomore cornerback DeAndre Wright. Ditmore is the secondary’s resident hard-hitter, and Wright leads the team with three interceptions on the season.