Occasionally there is something in the stat charts that screams out a message that hits you in the face like a cold shovel. These stats say something like: “Here it is. This is why you won – or lost.”
The Lobos had a stat line like that after their 31-24 loss to the UTEP Miners Saturday on Branch field.
Fumbles Lost: New Mexico two, Miners none.
The errors were huge because they might have taken away a Lobo score and set up UTEP for the winning touchdown.
“Two critical mistakes,” Lobo Coach Bob Davie said of fourth-quarter fumbles by Jhurell Pressley and Dameon Gamblin. The first bobble killed a NM drive that had the Lobos on the UTEP 27 looking to break a 24-24 tie.
The second miscue came a few minutes later. UNM held UTEP on downs forcing the Miners to punt from the Lobo 42-yard line. Gamblin drifted back to the 5-yard line and slightly misjudged his catch. The loose ball was gobbled up by LaQuintus Dowell and UTEP had a first-and-goal at the UNM 6-yard line. They scored two plays later and that pretty much ended it.
UNM tried a desperation march with 2:18 to play, but it ended with a Clayton Mitchem interception with 1:16 to go.
“Games like these definitely hurt the most,” said Lobo O-lineman LaMar Bratton. “You are right there and you can almost taste and smell and feel the victory and like any moment it can just be taken away like that.”
The two fourth-quarter fumbles ended UNM’s dramatic come-from-behind charge. The Lobos fell into a halftime hole of 24-7, but the Cole Gautsche-led option helped UNM move into the 24-all tie.
“We came out here so amped and emotional as an offense that we might have lost our focus in the beginning,” said Bratton. “We didn’t come out the way we should have. You hate to see a start like that that puts you behind so much.
“But I’m proud of the way we came back and fought hard at the end.”
Said Davie: “We came out in the second half and took it to them, but we made too many mistakes.”
The Lobos had stolen away the game’s momentum in the second half, but UNM had to play the final 12 minutes with Gautsche on the bench. The rugged junior left the game with a pulled hamstring that came during a 33-yard burst around the Lobos’ left side. Mitchem led UNM to a game-tying 35-yard field goal by Zack Rogers, but the Lobos did not score again.
“We started off wobbly,” said Davie. “On offense, it really all started with the snaps. For whatever reason, early in the game we were just tippy-toeing around. On offense, we had a lot of mistakes in that first half."
“It was an unacceptable performance in the first half. In the second half, we showed more of the potential we have. They couldn’t stop us in the second half.”
The Miners outgained UNM 326 yards to 182 yards in the first half. UNM ended up with 477 total yards to 446 for UTEP. The Miners had 31 first downs and UNM had 24.
The Lobos ran for 410 yards with Gautsche picking up a career single-game high of 184 yards. Pressley added 84 yards and Teriyon Gipson had 71 yards rushing. UNM went 5-9-1 passing for 67 yards.
“The first half was really disappointing (defensively),” said Davie. “We have to improve. It (defense) wasn’t as good as I thought it was going to be.”
The defense did show improvement in the second half. A goal-line stand in the fourth quarter led to Rogers' game-tying field goal. The only points the Miners put on the board in the second half came off the fumbled punt that set up their offense on the UNM 6-yard line.
The Lobos got a huge game from linebacker Dakota Cox, who was in on 17 tackles. Defensive back David Guthrie had nine total tackes with four of them solo.
"Coaches talked to us and told us we have to go out there and play like it’s a new half and bring the enthusiasm this time," Cox said of the halftime adjustments. "We were back on our heels a little bit.
"I think guys realized that and we stepped it up out there and put up a fight. We need to do that the whole game, including myself. I need to bring the energy to all the other guys. I feel like if we did that, we’d be able to pull it out".
The Lobos play host to Arizona State this Saturday at University Stadium.
The Lobos used the third quarter to pull the scoreboard gap closer to them at 24-21. The Lobos’ option broke several big plays highlighted by Gautsche’s 51-yard scoring run with 1:56 to go in the quarter. Gautsche ended that quarter with 151 yards.
The Lobos got a defensive stop in the third quarter thanks to a high snap that put UTEP into a hole they could not climb out of. UNM also stopped UTEP on fourth-and-goal at the UNM 1-yard line with 13:22 to play in the fourth quarter. That stop led to the 35-yard field goal by Rogers that formed a 24-24 tie.
First Half: UTEP 24, New Mexico Lobos 7
The stat sheet reflected what was on the scoreboard. The Miners churned out 326 total yards which equated to 24 points. The Lobos had 182 yards with 148 coming on the ground. The Miners had 13 first downs to eight for the Lobos. UTEP won the possession battle 17:30 minutes to 12:40.
UTEP’s Aaron Jones in the first half had 158 yards including a 73-yard touchdown. Jones also scored on a 12-yard run to give the Miners the early 7-0 lead. UNM knotted the score at 7-7 using a 68-yard scamper by Gautsche. The Miners’ third touchdown of the half was a 48-yard pass from Showers to Jarrad Shaw.
Gautsche ended with 84 yards in the first 30 minutes and Gipson had 35 yards rushing. Gautsche went 2-of-4 passing in the half for 26 yards. Showers went 7-of-15 passing for 99 yards and a single aerial score. The Miners might have made a mistake at the close of the first half when they were driving and decided to work the clock at the expenses of trying to pad their lead.