Thunder Only Happens When It’s Raining
Though there was a steady rain falling on the University Stadium field just prior to kickoff, the big news at game time was that there would be no thunder tonight. Rodney Ferguson, he of thunder fame, was scratched from the lineup in a last minute announcement. Instead it was left to lightning, in the form of Paul Baker, to carry the load tonight. But even Baker was a bit banged up with a foot injury, leaving Lobo fans to speculate about whether redshirt freshman James Wright would be able to provide some of that long, low rumble of a sound. Rocky’s decision to defer to the 2nd half after winning the coin toss, left the Lobo fans to speculate for a bit longer. Many of those Lobo fans were left to speculate from the parking lot as it appeared that many of the announced attendance of 28,752 never made it into the stadium due to the sloppy weather conditions.
Wyoming received the opening kickoff and immediately went to the air on the first play from scrimmage. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Karsten Sween’s first pass was tipped high in the air by Lobo linebacker, Carmen Messina. Frankie Solomon opportunistically picked up the deflected pass on the 13 yard line and just like that the Lobos’s scored the first points in a game for the first time all season. Rocky’s decision to defer to the 2nd half was looking genius after all. Also just like that, the Cowboys added to their D1 leading number of turnovers this season. For the night the Cowboys would add 2 more fumbles to their turnover mark, further solidifying their position at the bottom of the NCAA ranks in this statistical category.
On Wyoming’s 2nd possession, the Lobo’s forced a punt. After a 34 yard punt and a 24 yard punt return from Ian Clark, UNM had possession at the Wyoming 26 yard line as they took over for their first offensive possession. UNM managed only 6 yards on the possession, leaving a 38 yard field goal attempt for James Aho. Aho’s effort hit high off the right upright and bounced harmlessly toward the right sideline. UNM’s lead stayed at 7.
After coming up with another solid defensive stop, UNM started their 2nd offensive possession at the Wyoming 47 yard line. UNM drove methodically on 9 plays, 8 of them running plays culminating in a 1 yard James Wright plunge for a touchdown on 4th down from the 1 yard line. And just like that the comforting sound of the low, distant rumble had arrived in the form of freshman James Wright, putting the Lobo’s up 14-0 with 5:54 remaining in the 1st quarter.
On the next Lobo possession, James Wright and Paul Baker both helped carry the load. The thunder and lightning offense was back in play and it would remain in play for the remainder of the game as the Lobos rolled to 317 rushing yards. Lobo QB, Brad Gruner, contributed to that total by rambling, not rumbling, for 52 yards down the sideline after getting flushed out of the pocket. This play took UNM to the 12 yard line. Three plays later Gruner called his own number for the 3rd Lobo touchdown of the game. The Lobo’s led 21-0 with 6 minutes remaining in the 2nd quarter. The way the Lobo defense was playing, possibly aided by an inept Wyoming offense, the outcome of the game seemed secure at that point. The small crowd became even smaller after halftime once the outcome of the game appeared secure. Not even a “re-entry permissible” policy would have helped fill the seats to a respectable level in the 2nd half on this night.
The Lobo’s went on to win 24-0 as the defense continued to dominate the Cowboy offense. The only outcome still in doubt in the 2nd half was whether the Lobo’s could pitch a shutout against the struggling Cowboys, after all this wasn’t the post-season Cubs that they were playing.
Play gradually got sloppier as the elements took their toll in the 2nd half. Many players and even the officials started slipping around on the field. Most of the fans didn’t stick around to watch the ending which featured the first Lobo conference shutout in 25 years. On the bright side there would be no complaints about traffic jams in Sports Speakup on Monday morning.
UNM’s passing game is still a concern as Gruner completed 8 of 19 passes for 33 yards, most of those completions were of the 2 to 3 yard variety. The team’s inability to mount a consistent downfield passing attack (as opposed to passes in the flat) will ultimately be the deciding factor on how well they play the remainder of their schedule. If they can improve in that area, they will be extremely competitive, even against the teams from the Beehive state. Speaking of beehives, the Lobo defense brings to mind a swarm of bees attacking the ballcarrier. The unit was led by Zach Arnett who finished with a career high 16 tackles.
The other extremely bright spot for the Lobos was the play of James Wright. He seems capable of providing both the lightning and the thunder when called upon. He finished his night with 120 yards on 15 carries despite having his most impressive run, a would be touchdown run of approximately 30 yards, called back due to a holding penalty.
So where do the Lobo’s go from here in terms of improving their passing game? Did coaches Long and Baldwin provide a glimpse of things to come when they introduced two Tate Smith option passes in the first half of the game? Will they continue to jumpstart the passing game with more of these types of passes? Will they possibly allow Tate Smith to play a series or two in upcoming games? That may be the only remaining controversy the Lobo’s face this year. The other elements of their game seem to be hitting full stride after an inconsistent start. And yes, the low, distant rumble you hear is real, even when Rodney Ferguson is not on the field. Hopefully thunder also happens when it’s not raining.
Last edited by Roob; 10-05-2008 at 03:06 PM.
Good job Roob! Stick to the laptop and leave the hardcourt for the kiddies!!
Great job Roob! on it now,....
Serious, great writeup. I just read it again (skimmed the first time) since I was getting ready to go to the movies.
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