Few major college football teams needed a bye week more than New Mexico.
A five-game losing streak, sputtering offense, and new starting quarterback have the Lobos looking to hit the reset button and reenergize the program for the final four games of the season, three on the road – Utah State (Nov. 5), Air Force (Nov. 12) and Colorado State (Nov. 25). The lone remaining home game is Fri., Nov. 18 against San Diego State.
“The bye week couldn’t have come at a better time for us,” Gonzales said after Saturday night’s game. ”But the sky is not falling. We’re not going backwards. We were competitive in the last four games until (Saturday).”
Even though the Lobos offense managed just three field goals for the second consecutive game, JUCO transfer Justin Holaday showed enough in his first career major college start to convince Gonzales to name him the starting QB for the remainder of the season.
“For his first start, Justin did some good things and did some thing he needs to improve on”, Gonzales said. “But that’s normal when you get your first full game of action. He’s going to be a very good player over the next two years. This week will be very similar to fall camp practices. We’ll go offense vs. defense, good v. good. We’ll do stuff so the reads are better for Justin and it will be faster. We’ll have time to make sure he’s on the right page every time.”
The Lobos will practice Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before taking the weekend off. But the UNM coaches won’t be enjoying much down time. They’re hitting the road to recruit.
One position that might not need reinforcements anytime soon is the secondary. The Lobos started four true freshman at defensive back Saturday afternoon – A.J. Haulcy, Jer’Marius Lewis, Zach Morris and Bryson Taylor.
“In the next couple of years we’re going to have the potential of having four or five guys that will play in the NFL in the secondary,” Gonzales said. “They’re getting a lot of live reps right now. You can’t get any better preparation than live bullets and those guys took a bunch of them Saturday night.”
Haulcy finished with 24 tackles, tying for the second-most in a single game in Mountain West history and the most by an FBS player since 2019, and an interception. He was named Mountain West Freshman of the Week for the second time this season on Monday.
“After watching the film, A.J. played very well’, Gonzales said. “Fourteen of his 24 tackles were for 2-1/2 yards or less. That’s a big time football game for a true freshman. He has a really bright future.”
The Lobos hope to get several players back from injury, including junior LB Ray Leutele, next week in time for the Nov. 5 trip to Utah State. WR Geordon Porter played a few snaps on Saturday night but hopefully will be 100 percent by the Utah State game.
Gonzales acknowledged the Lobos have only two ‘playmakers’ in the passing game – Porter and Luke Wysong.
“Right now, only Luke and Geordon have shown and have stepped up and proven they can do some things to get open,” Gonzales said.
Presumably, finding some quality receivers is one of the top priorities for the coaches on the recruiting trail this weekend.
“The biggest thing is finding players, getting them to come here and continuing to develop them,:” Gonzales said.