Rocky Long rejoined The University of New Mexico in January of 2020, as he will serve as the defensive coordinator. He has a long and storied history with The University of New Mexico, dating back to 1969 as a player with the Lobos, through his 11-year stint as head coach of the Lobos. His first two seasons back with the program he also served as the linebackers position coach, but in 2022 he ceded his day-to-day positional responsibilities, allowing him to oversee the entire defense, although he still helps with the linebacker position.
The hiring is a role reversal of sorts as Gonzales spent the 2017 season as defensive coordinator at San Diego State under Long. Gonzales and Long’s association dates to 1998, Gonzales’ senior season at UNM and Long’s first as head coach.
The defensive unit once again was stellar in 2022, showcasing a tough, hard-nosed and hard-hitting side. For the third straight year under Long, the defense lowered its total defense yards per game number, and the program has now cut off 125.5 yards per game from when Long rejoined the program. Last year UNM had a top-30 passing defense, with the program allowing just 202.8 yards per game through the air, finishing 30th, and that comes after inheriting the worst passing defensive team in the nation from 2019. The passing yardage total is the lowest for UNM in 15 years, since the Lobos allowed 197.4 yards per game in 2007.
UNM finished in the top 50 in total defense for the season straight year, and its the first time that UNM has finished in the top 50 in back-to-back years since 2007-08. The Lobo defense also finished in the top 35 in third down defense and in the top 25 in defensive first downs. The Lobos finished the season with eight All-Mountain West picks, tying for the most in the past 10 seasons, and three Second Team picks, the second most in the last 10 years. Additionally, UNM had it’s first positional Freshman All-American in A.J. Haulcy for the first time since 2014.
The Lobo defense made huge strides in 2021, ranking 44th overall in total defense, a 57-spot improvement from 2020. Overall, UNM allowed 363.1 yards per game, and that was the lowest total in 13 seasons, since the 2008 team allowed 335.8 yards per game. UNM ranked 44th overall, and the 2008 team ranked 45th. The 2021 teams’ ranking was the best since 2007, when UNM ranked 13th in total defense at 319.9 yards per game.
The Lobos rushing defense stood at 143.2 yards per game, better than a 20-yard per game improvement from 2020, and it was the best rushing defense since 2008 when UNM ranked 26th at 122.3 yards per game. Passing-wise, UNM allowed just 219.8 passing yards per game to rank 54th, an incredible adjustment from 2019 when the passing defense allowed 321.4 yards per game and ranked 130th (last) in the FBS. It was UNM’s best passing defense since 2010 when the unit ranked 53rd at 218.8 yards per game.
And UNM’s passing defense goes back further than just the 2021 season. If you count the final four games of the 2020 season, when UNM allowed just 750 passing yards (a 187.5 average after allowing 1,231 yards, or 410.3 per game over the first three), the Lobos have allowed just 211.8 yards through the air over the last 16 games. The 2021 season also saw UNM deal with adversity that most teams have never seen, losing so many quarterbacks during the year that the Lobos were forced to start a graduate manager at quarterback in the final game of the season.
In 2020, the Lobo defense regained its reputation as a hard-nosed, hard-hitting unit, nearly tying a long-standing record for sacks in a game, as the unit had eight in the final game of the season against Fresno State. The defense under Long racked up 13 takeaways in just seven games, more than the previous season’s total of 11 accomplished in 12 games. The Lobo defense led the Mountain West, allowing just eight touchdowns on 19 red zone chances (42.1%), a mark that was fifth in the FBS (after ranking 115th in 2019). The unit also improved in total defense, first downs allowed and third-down defense. UNM picked up its first Mountain West First Team All-Conference selection in four years on defense as Jerrick Reed earned the honor.
Additionally, linebacker Brandon Shook earned Second Team All-MW honors under Long.
Long played quarterback at UNM from 1969-71, earning WAC Player of the Year honors in 1971. He then played professionally in both Canada and with the Detroit Wheels of the short-lived World Football League.
The coaching stint will be his fourth at his alma mater. Long was a graduate assistant from 1972-73 and the offensive back field coach and then defensive backs coach from 1978-80 with New Mexico before becoming defensive coordinator at Wyoming, Oregon State and UCLA. He was named UNM’s head coach January 12, 1998 and coached the Lobos from 1998-2008, winning a school record 65 games.
Long has UNM bowl eligible for a school record seven straight seasons, and UNM played in back-to-back-to-back bowl games from 2002-04, a first in school history. Long led UNM to a 23-0 win over Nevada in the 2007 New Mexico Bowl, ending a 46-year bowl victory drought for the school. Long is the all-time winningest coach in UNM history, and he is second in all-time wins at San Diego State behind Don Coryell.
Throughout is time as UNM’s head coach, Gonzales was a player (1998) or on staff with Long. Gonzales was a graduate assistant from (1999-02), video coordinator (2003-05) and safeties and special teams coordinator (2006-08).
Long left UNM after the 2008 season and became San Diego State’s defensive coordinator for the 2009 and 2010 seasons before replacing Brady Hoke for the 2011 season. Long remained as defensive coordinator from 2011-16, bringing Gonzales on staff to coach safeties. In 2017, he stepped aside from serving as his own coordinator and Gonzales stepped in.
Long won 81 games over his nine seasons with San Diego State, never suffering a losing season and winning double digits in four of the last five years. He also led San Diego State to three Mountain West titles and nine bowl games. His final head coaching win was a 48-11 win over Central Michigan in the 2019 New Mexico Bowl, in the same stadium he used to coach and play on.
Long is a three-time Mountain West Coach of the Year and he is the winningest coach in the history of the league, with 143 of his 146 win coming since the league’s inception in 1999. Long and his wife Debby have two daughters, Roxanne (a former college women’s basketball head coach and current professor at North Texas) and Hannah (head women’s volleyball coach at Queens University in Charlotte, N.C.)
|Rocky Long Profile:|
|Born||January 27, 1950|
|Alma Mater||New Mexico, 1971 (B.A., Education)|
|Playing Exp.:||New Mexico, 1969-71 (WAC Offensive Player of the Year)|
|Family||Married to Debby. Daughters are Roxanne, Hannah|
|2020||New Mexico (Defensive Coordinator)|
|2011-19||San Diego State (Head Coach)|
|2009-10||San Diego State (Defensive Coordinator)|
|1999-08||New Mexico (Head Coach)|
|1996-97||UCLA (Defensive Coordinator)|
|1991-95||Oregon State (Defensive Coordinator)|
|1988-90||TCU (Defensive Backs)|
|1986-87||B.C. Lions (Linebackers)|
|1981-85||Wyoming (Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs)|
|1979-80||New Mexico (Defensive Backs)|
|1978||New Mexico (Offensive Backfield)|
|1974-75||Eldorado HS (Assistant)|
|1972-73||New Mexico (Graduate Assistant)|
|Postseason Coached (corresponding to the season, not the actual year of game):|
|2019||New Mexico Bowl|
|2018||DXL Frisco Bowl|
|2017||Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl|
|2016||Las Vegas Bowl|
|2013||Famous Idaho Potato|
|2011||New Orleans Bowl|
|2007||New Mexico Bowl|
|2006||New Mexico Bowl|
|2003||Las Vegas Bowl|
|2002||Las Vegas Bowl|