The Star-Tribune is taking an early look at each of Wyoming’s opponents in the order they appear on the Cowboys’ 2019 schedule. Next up is New Mexico.
LARAMIE — Bob Davie is entering his eighth season as the coach at New Mexico.
What the Lobos do with it could determine if the veteran coach gets a ninth.
It’s been a tumultuous tenure in Albuquerque for Davie, whose team has gone a combined 6-18 the last two seasons and has had just two winning seasons since he took over before the 2012 season. It hasn’t always been pretty away from the field either as Davie was suspended for 30 days last year amid multiple investigations into his off-field conduct.
UNM stuck with Davie after posting its second straight three-win season last year, setting up what could be a do-or-die campaign for Davie at the helm of Wyoming’s Mountain Division counterpart in the Mountain West. Wyoming, which has outscored New Mexico 73-6 the last two seasons, will go for its third straight win in the series when the Lobos visit War Memorial Stadium on Oct. 19.
Some changes have already been made as Davie shook up his coaching staff in the offseason. Joe Dailey came from Liberty to be UNM’s new offensive coordinator while former Fresno State assistant Jordan Peterson was promoted to defensive coordinator after spending the last two seasons as the Lobos’ safeties coach.
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Peterson has his work cut out for him taking over a defense that didn’t finish better than 10th in the MW in total defense, run defense or pass defense last season. Making it an even tougher chore is the fact UNM only returns one starter to a unit that gave up 36.2 points per game — fourth-most in the league.
With that comes the loss of the Lobos’ top nine tacklers from last year, but UNM will get some reinforcements with the returns of linebacker Alex Hart and defensive lineman Trent Sellers, who are both back from season-ending knee injuries. Hart, who played the first three games last season, will rejoin a linebacking corps that includes Brandon Shook, who had 40 tackles and two sacks a season ago.
The other side of the ball is far more experienced with UNM returning seven starters to an offense that’s looking for more production after scoring just 26.6 points per game last season. But Davie first has to decide on a starting quarterback among Tevaka Tuioti, Sheriron Jones, Trae Hall and Brandt Hughes. Tuioti and Jones both took snaps last season and accounted for 2,242 total yards, Hall is coming off a redshirt year, and Hughes joined the competition in the spring as a junior college transfer.
UNM ran for less than 154 yards a game last season, an average the Lobos will have to try to improve on with leading rusher Tyrone Owens out of eligibility. Leading receiver Delane Hart-Johnson is also gone, but Elijah Lilly (team-high 5 TD receptions) is back to try to help an offense that threw for just 177.3 yards per game last season.
Special teams was a strong suit for the Lobos last season, particularly with safety Marcus Hayes helping UNM average a league-best 19.2 yards on punt returns. But Hayes has since transferred out of the program, leaving the Lobos with yet another question to answer entering a season full of them.