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Lobo Defense Stellar in 27-17 Opening Win

by Frank Mercogliano

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico jumped out to a 14-0 lead after two drives and then held steady and UNM’s defense held high-flying Houston Baptist to just 187 total yards, winning 27-17 in the 2021 season opener, UNM’s first home game in 642 days.  The win pushed UNM’s winning streak to three straight, the longest for the program in four years.

Terry Wilson was solid in his Lobo debut, going 20-for-26 passing for 174 yards and three touchdowns.  He opened the game after UNM ended HBU’s opening drive with a Ray Leutele interception.  Wilson, who actually caught a pass on the opening play, hit a wide open Kyle Jarvis from 11 yards out for a quick touchdown just 2:10 into the game.

After a three-and-out pitched by the Lobo defense, Wilson went to work again, this time driving UNM 74 yards in nine plays.  He opened with completions to Mannie Logan-Greene and Andrew Erickson.  He found his favorite target Luke Wysong three different times, for 15, 11 and 22 yards, the last of which put UNM on the 4-yard line.  Wilson then hit freshman tight end Trace Bruckler for a bruising four-yard score to make it 14-0.

UNM’s defense was stout, and didn’t give much of anything to Houston Baptist.  Overall, the Huskies gained just 187 yards overall, and -9 on the ground.  The Huskies used two brilliant special teams plays to get back in the game.  First punter Brady Buell hammered a 59-yard punt that went out of bounds at the 1-yard line.  UNM couldn’t move the ball for a first down, and Aaron Rodriguez’ punt was returned by Tyron Thompson 44 yards for a touchdown, making it 14-7.

A field goal moved it to 14-10, but Wilson and the Lobo offense struck quickly.  Bobby Cole rushed three straight times to move UNM into Husky territory after a 41-yard kickoff return by Logan-Greene.  Wilson then faked a handoff and launched a perfect bomb into the waiting hands of true freshman Keyonta Lanier for a 47-yard score, and a 21-10 lead that held at halftime.

In the second half, UNM’s offense bogged down a bit, gaining just 104 yards in the half after 208 jn the opening half.  However, UNM’s defense was terrific.  Overall the Lobos recorded five sacks, three takeaways, 10 tackles for a loss and six pass breakups.  UNM extended the lead to 24-10 after three as Andrew Shelley hit a 30-yard field goal.  Houston Baptist got back within seven with another short drive set up by a good punt return.  HBU went 40 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 6-yard pass from Blaise Bentsen to Charles King with 2:57 left.

HBU then held UNM without a first down and got the ball back with 3:03 to go at its own 39-yard line, but on their first play, a pitch to Xavier Ford went through his hands, and Devin Sanders recovered at the HBU 27.  UNM couldn’t get a first down, but Shelley put the game basically out of reach with a 37-yard field goal.

Houston Baptist had one more chance, but Combs completed his stellar evening with an interception at the UNM 20-yard line on third-and-10.

UNM, which played in front of 15,908 in its first home game since 2019, now have a couple of extra days before heading into rivalry week against New Mexico State.

Postgame Notes

This was the first meeting between the two teams.

New Mexico now leads 1-0

New Mexico leads 1-0 in Albuquerque

New Mexico has now won one straight in the series


Starting lineup changes for UNM from published two-deep

Offense:  Luke Wysong started at WR-H for Mannie Logan-Greene, Trae Hall starters at WR-Z for Keyonta Lanier

Defense: Jake Saltonstall started at RE for Adam Gayino


*New Mexico’s captains were Terry Wilson, Jerrick Reed II, Kyle Stapley and Joey Noble.

*New Mexico’s Joah Flores carried the state flag of New Mexico onto the field.



*The win for UNM gives the Lobos three straight wins dating back to last season, the program’s longest winning streak since winning the final two games of the 2016 season and the opener in 2017.

*The game marked the fourth straight home opener against a Texas team.  Three of UNM’s first four games are against Texas teams.

*The -9 rushing yards allowed by UNM was the 11th lowest total allowed by UNM, and it was the lowest since allowing -53 to UTEP on September 1, 2001.

*New Mexico’s first two touchdowns were caught by tight ends, and that total equaled the number of touchdowns caught by UNM tight ends in the 2019 and 2020 season combined.

*Houston Baptist returned a punt 44 yards for a touchdown, and that marked the first punt return for a touchdown against the Lobos since November 11, 2017 when Christian Kirk went 90 yards for a touchdown for Texas A&M.

*Houston Baptist’s Ginp Garcia hit a 45-yard field goal in the second quarter, marking the 14th straight field goal made by UNM opponents over three seasons.  The last missed field goal was by Wyoming on October 19, 2019, a 47-yard attempt.

*New Mexico recorded five sacks in the game, giving the Lobos 13 in the last two games dating back to last season.
*The Lobos won the turnover battle 3-1, and outscored HBU on those 10-0.



*Ray Leutele intercepted his first career pass to end HBU’s opening drive.

*Tavian Combs tied his career-high with 12 tackles, adding an interception, a forced fumble and two pass breakups.

*Kyle Jarvis’ first catch of the season was a touchdown catch from Terry Wilson.
*Terry Wilson caught a pass from Trae Hall for the first offensive play of the season.

*Wilson completed his first 11 passes in a row to start his UNM career, and overall UNM was 12 for its first 12.

*Keyonta Lanier’s 47-yard touchdown catch was his first career catch.

*Andrew Shelley’s 30-yard field goal and a 37-yarder, making him 21-for-27 in his career, a 77.8% mark.  That is good for fourth all-time at UNM in terms of accuracy.



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