Cowboys looking to avenge past ’embarrassments’ against New Mexico
LARAMIE -- "Embarrassing."
That was a common theme Monday when discussing the last two meetings with New Mexico.
It's the right word, too. Here's a little history lesson.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions in the Land of Enchantment, the Lobos were forced to call Las Vegas' Sam Boyd Stadium their makeshift home during the 2020 season. Danny Gonzales' tenure at his alma mater got off to a rocky 0-5 start.
That is until Wyoming paid a visit to Sin City.
Running back Bobby Cole gashed the Cowboys for 131 rushing yards on 22 carries and also caught a 44-yard touchdown pass from Isaiah Chavez in the Lobos' 17-16 stunner. A late red-zone fumble by Trey Smith helped New Mexico snap an FBS worst 14-game losing skid. The win also halted a 20-game conference losing streak that December night.
Told you the "E-word" is a fitting one.
It gets worse.
UNM rolled into Laramie last October on a five-game skid and coming off a 36-7 blowout home loss to Colorado State in which the Lobos rolled up 69 yards of total offense, including just 16 through the air.
Surely the Cowboys would snap a two-game losing streak of their own that day, right?
Chavez completed 10-of-11 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown and added 49 more yards on the ground in a 14-3 upset inside War Memorial Stadium. Wyoming quarterbacks -- Sean Chambers and Levi Williams -- combined for 147 passing yards and completed just 14-of-30 throws in the loss. Chambers added an interception. Williams, a fumble.
Aside from those two turnovers killing drives, the Cowboys punted the ball away four times and turned the ball over on downs twice.
It wasn't pretty.
Right tackle Frank Crum hasn't forgotten, either. He was on the field for both debacles.
"To lose to these guys two years in a row, we can't have that," the junior from Laramie said. "There's no overlooking these guys. We're not good enough to do that. We have to just keep grinding and working and take them off the list here.
"Execution, again, was lacking the past few times with his defense," Crum added.
Crum credits Rocky Long's defense when bluntly asked what happened in the previous two meetings. The legendary head coach turned UNM defensive coordinator deploys a "Gap penetration" scheme that shows different looks across the line of scrimmage and sends blitzes from any and everywhere.
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UW head coach Craig Bohl joked Long and Gonzales are the "Dalai Lama's" of this game plan.
"It's a disruptive type of defense with lots of different guys coming in from all kinds of different places," Bohl said. "You know, it's one of those things, you live by the sword, you die by the sword, and we need to try to make them pay. In the past, we haven't. They've had their way with us. We've got to have a better game plan and execute better both in the rush game and then protecting the quarterback."
Wyoming's mantra this season has been "1-0." In other words, the next game is the biggest one on the schedule. For the Pokes, that means they can finally focus all their frustration of past failures squarely on the Lobos.
"Absolutely," UW cornerbacks coach Benny Boyd said. "I'd be lying to you if I said that, you know, our guys weren't focused on getting this win."
Is that mainly because of the humiliation of dropping two straight to a program that has an overall record of 15-45 and a MW mark of 5-36 since 2017?
"I don't know. I think more because of the last two weeks," Boyd added, referring to the Cowboys dropping back-to-back games to BYU and San Jose State after jumping out to a 3-1 record this fall.
Eric Abojei, UW's left tackle, agrees with that. But he can't deny it, watching the Lobos celebrate in Vegas and in Laramie has not sat well with the senior.
"It definitely did burn a little bit," he said. "Especially not being able to put an actual drive together last year. "I want to get this one."
DeVonne Harris said the Cowboys were equally frustrated on the defensive side of the ball. The sophomore pass rusher called those outings "trap games." Wyoming certainly got snared.
"They were pretty tough," he said. "You never want to lose, but you never want to lose one of those games ... You think you're going to win, but you go in and don't want to play down to them but you end up doing that. What (defensive coordinator Jay) Sawvel has been saying this year is 'It's not who we play, it's how we play.' So we just have to go play our game and I feel like we'll get the job done."
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Bohl was asked Monday if this game means more because of not only the previous upsets but his 30-plus year relationship with Long, which includes a loss to his San Diego State squad in the 2016 Mountain West Championship game.
He wasn't biting on that one.
"You know, we've had a difficult time matching up with these guys," he said. "So this is a big, big challenge for us."
The Cowboys (3-3, 1-1) and Lobos (2-3, 0-2) will meet for the 75th time in the history of the series Saturday evening inside Albuquerque's University Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 5 p.m. Mountain Time and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
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