Pack doesn’t know what to expect from Lobos
For the Nevada Appeal
RENO – Chris Ault has no idea what to expect from the New Mexico Lobos.
“The problem with all of the turmoil they’ve had is that you are not sure what they are going to do,” said the Nevada Wolf Pack head coach of Saturday’s (1 p.m., 630-AM) homecoming game at Mackay Stadium against the winless Lobos.
Ault, whose Wolf Pack is 2-3, doesn’t know what to expect from the Lobos because, it seems, the Lobos don’t know what to expect out of themselves. New Mexico is 0-5 this year and has lost 31 of its last 33 games dating back to the 2008 season.
The Lobos are also on their second head coach this season after Mike Locksley was fired on Sept. 25.
“We’re just looking for ways to give our team a spark,” interim head coach George Barlow said this week.
The Lobos, of the Mountain West Conference, haven’t had many sparks of hope in recent years. Their last big spark just might have come in a 23-0 victory over the Wolf Pack in December 2007 in the New Mexico Bowl under coach Rocky Long, now the head coach at San Diego State.
“We’re not even going to mention that game this week,” Ault said. “That was a long time ago. It has no bearing on this game.”
There are really no similarities between this New Mexico team and the one the Pack lost to in 2007. New Mexico’s defense, for example, is allowing an average of 43 points and 522 yards a game this year. The Lobos went 2-26 under Locksley and are 0-1 under Barlow.
This will be New Mexico’s second trip to Reno and first since a 0-0 tie with the Wolf Pack on Nevada Day in 1942.
“This is not about who we play,” Ault said. “Right now all we’re really concerned about is ourselves. We still have to get better and we have a long way to go.”
The Pack took steps in that direction a week ago by beating UNLV (37-0), another struggling team from the Mountain West Conference. The Wolf Pack held the Rebels to one pass completion for eight yards and recorded the first shutout in the 42-year history of the rivalry.
“These two weeks we need to settle in, get better and clean up a lot of things,” Ault said. “Last week was big for us because it helped our confidence. Success breeds success and it is important for us these two weeks to establish that.”
Ault, by no means, believes the 37-point victory over UNLV cured all that ails his football team. The Pack, after all, still committed five turnovers and the starting quarterback (Cody Fajardo, who will also start this week) again failed to play a complete game.
“UNLV is not the caliber of team we’re going to see the rest of the year,” he said. “No question. But we made improvement on both sides of the ball. That is important.”
New Mexico is in search of the same thing. The Lobos have lost two close games, 48-45 to Sam Houston State and 14-10 to Colorado State. And they’ve been blown out three times, 52-3 to Arkansas, 59-13 to Texas Tech and 42-28 to New Mexico State.
Their last road win was over New Mexico State, 35-24, in 2008.
And now they are, as Ault said, a program in turmoil with an interim head coach.
“Right now, for me, what’s working for me is just me being me,” said Barlow, a 20-year assistant coach at various schools before being named the Lobos head coach. “The kids know I care about them they know I love them and I’ll do whatever I can to help them win. That’s what I just keep pumping into them. And when they believe in you they’ll keep working for you.”
The Lobos haven’t played a game since the two-touchdown loss to New Mexico State two weeks ago in Barlow’s first game as head coach.
“That game didn’t turn out the way we wanted but, when you watch the film, you don’t see kids not trying,” Barlow said. “They’re still trying to give me what they got.”
Barlow hopes the two weeks without a game to worry about will pay off this week.
“We’ve gotten a chance to heal a bit mentally and physically,” Barlow said. “It’s been really helpful. All of this (Locksley’s firing) happened at once and that first week we had to go out and play a game. The bye week has helped me fit into the role I’ve been given.”
Ault is confident he knows one thing about the Lobos.
“They’ll throw the ball deep,” said Ault of Lobos quarterback B.R. Holbrook. “They’ll throw it deep 20 times a game and if they hit two or three of them, they’ll be right in this game. They just let the ball go.”
“They are a team looking for an identity,” Wolf Pack defensive tackle Brett Roy said. “We don’t want to be the team they get their identity from.”
The Wolf Pack, after all, is a team in search of its first winning streak of the season.
“We are going to go out there and keep our foot on their throat,” said Roy, who had 11 tackles, four for a loss, and one sack in the win over UNLV. “We’re going to go out there and keep them on the ground and not give them an inch or any breath at all.”