By Greg Archuleta / Journal Reporter Thursday, 03 September 2009 23:48 Recent Openers Not Productive
The University of New Mexico football team is amid one of those dubious streaks that would make former coach Rocky Long cringe.
The Lobos, who, open their 2009 season Saturday at Texas A&M, have not scored a touchdown in a season opener since 2005 — which is also the last time they won a season opener.
UNM had two field goals in an embarrassing 17-6 loss to Portland State in 2006. It had two field goals in a 10-6 loss at Texas-El Paso in 2007. Last season, TCU beat the Lobos 26-3.
Even the players seemed startled when told of that statistic.
“I had no idea that had happened,” senior center Erik Cook said. “That’s going to change.”
It hasn’t helped that the Lobos have had four different offensive coordinators in the last five seasons, but senior quarterback Donovan Porterie refuses to make excuses.
“All the offenses gave us the opportunity to start fast,” says Porterie, who has been at the controls the last two openers. “It was just the execution factor wasn’t there. I think with the type of coaching we have now, everybody’s very confident and ready to go out there and execute.”
Long is off, gallivanting at San Diego State these days. His successor, Mike Locksley, was hired to ensure such streaks would no longer play a role in the program.
UNM’s new coach, who has made it clear he doesn’t deal in negatives, says Porterie will play a major role in determining how fast the Lobos can taste success with the ball.
“With this offense, it always starts and ends with the triggerman and what things he’s comfortable with,” Locksley says. “Obviously, you’d love to be able to establish a run game; it gives you a little more leeway as a play-caller. For us, if for some reason things don’t start fast, we’ve got to get the ball to a playmaker.”
In Locksley’s no-huddle spread, he has no shortage of playmakers, including Porterie, whom Locksley will ask to make plays with his feet.
“That adds another dimension to our offense,” Locksley said. “And to me, how you get the offense going is by distributing the ball to playmakers and being in the zone and in the moment and not letting all the peripheral things of a first game and a crowd, noise let it affect you.”
Cook says the attack mode under which Locksley’s offense operates gives the players confidence they can score.
“In years past, maybe we were more passive and tried to see what the defenses came at us with,” Cook said. “Not this year. We’re ready. We’re going to out there with the intent of putting up a lot of points.”
Locksley says a factor he thinks will help the players that the staff has preached has been to differentiate between being “in the game” from being “at the game.”
“That’s how you get the offense going,” Locksley says, “by distributing the ball to playmakers and being in the zone and in the moment and not letting all the peripheral things of a first game and a crowd noise affect you.
“Those are the things we preach and talk about. When something negative happens, you’ve just got to be able to withstand the onslaught and play the next play.”
Locksley also keeps preaching that the Lobos have learned more of his playbook than Illinois did his first year as offensive coordinator there. UNM also committed fewer assignment errors while absorbing it. The player also have absorbed more confidence with better execution.
“It’s safe to say from an offensive point of view that we feel more prepared than we did last year,” senior offensive guard Josh Taufalele says, “mentally and physically. As long as we can come out and execute, there’s no limit to what we could do.”
PLAYER UPDATE: True freshman defensive back Demarcus Rogers finally received clearance and joined the team this week. UNM also further bolstered the defensive line for 2010 by enrolling Ugo Uzodinma, another freshman transfer from Illinois who will redshirt this season.
SEASON-TICKET UPDATE: UNM this week surpassed the 14,000 mark in season-ticket sales. Mark Koson, associate athletics director for tickets and auxiliary services, says the school is expecting to end up somewhere between 15,000-16,000.
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