Before the University of New Mexico football program goes into an offseason that promises to be one of significant change, there remains one precious opportunity to snap two losing streaks.
The Lobos will take the field on Friday in Fort Collins, Colorado having lost nine straight games in 2022 and 11 straight against Friday’s opponent, the Colorado State Rams.
But to both of those numbers, says UNM wide receiver Trae Hall, who cares?
“We go game by game,” Hall said after UNM’s practice on Monday. “It doesn’t matter, the past. We’re in the present and we’re not worried about the past at all.
“We’re talking about this game, what’s going on (now), and we’re trying to get this ‘W’ and end the season right.”
Without question, a victory on Friday at CSU’s Canvas Stadium could provide something of a springboard to that offseason of change.
What’s going to change? The identity of the head coach will not. New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nuñez has expressed full support for third-year coach Danny Gonzales, aware of the obstacles Gonzales has faced while compiling a 7-23 record that has satisfied neither coach nor AD nor a dwindling fan base.
Changes in the UNM coaching staff, though, cannot be ruled out. Gonzales previously has said he’ll hire an offensive coordinator to replace Derek Warehime, whom Gonzales fired on Oct. 9. It does not appear that quarterbacks coach Heath Ridenour, who has served as interim O-coordinator since Warehime’s dismissal, is a candidate.
“Obviously, every year you evaluate your staff,” Gonzales said after practice on Wednesday. “… I was afforded the opportunity when I was a coordinator (at San Diego State and Arizona State) to be able to work with people that I like and I think that’s important.
“So as we go through the process of hiring an offensive coordinator, there will be some decision-making in there that goes with what’s best for our program.”
The greatest and most telling changes, though, involve the players. In the era of the transfer portal, the one-time transfer rule and name, image and licensing, roster change is inevitable.
Among UNM players with eligibility remaining, who will stay, who will leave, and who can Gonzales and his staff recruit to replenish the roster?
During KKOB-AM radio’s “Lobo Talk” on Nov. 16, Gonzales said the NCAA has instituted a Monday-to-Monday (Nov. 28-Dec. 5) transfer-portal dead period.
“Some of the kids that enter the portal are entering because they want to do something else,” Gonzales said, “and some of them are being told, ‘You’re probably not going to play here, so if you want to play then you need to find somewhere (else).’
“… We’ll meet with all our kids (during the dead period). I’m sure there’ll be some surprises on both sides.”
As for Friday’s game, the listed betting over/under of 35 points seems a bit optimistic, since the Lobos (2-9, 0-7 Mountain West) and the Rams (2-9, 2-5) have combined for an average of just 27.1 points per game. New Mexico ranks 129th nationally in scoring offense, CSU 131st and last.
Colorado State is listed as a 7½-point favorite, perhaps based mostly on having the home field. The Rams’ two Mountain West victories have come against Nevada and Hawaii, teams the Lobos haven’t had the opportunity to play.
But then, there’s that streak. The Lobos last defeated Colorado State in 2009, 29-27, when Mike Locksley was UNM’s first-year coach. Some of the ensuing 11 games have been blowouts, some have been close — but always ending in victory for the green and gold.
As for the cherry and silver, let us give Hall the last word as well as the first.
“We don’t care how many games we’ve lost to this team or the past games we’ve lost this season,” the fifth-year senior wide receiver said.
“We’re gonna go toward this game striving for a victory.”