The Lobo soccer team continued its roll in the NCAA post-season tournament on Sunday, winning the match against Penn State by a final score of 2-0. The opportunities for more scoring in the match were numerous, but the Lobos just could not connect for the extra insurance. However, as the clock ticked down the seconds of the Sweet Sixteen game, it became apparent that the bonus points weren't needed—the Lobos are now headed back to the Elite Eight for their second time since 2005.
The Lobos will match up in Seattle against the University of Washington Huskies, where the current head coach is Jamie Clark—a man well-known in Albuquerque for his role as an assistant coach to the Lobos from 2002 to 2005. Clark served under current head coach Jeremy Fishbein and was present for some of the most exciting times in Lobo soccer. Ultimately, he would depart the Cherry and Silver squad when an opportunity arose at Notre Dame, where he would assist under his father. After brief stints at Harvard and Creighton, Clark has now taken the Huskies to their first Elite Eight appearance in school history.
Neither Washington nor UNM have faced ranked opponents in the Tournament thus far, but if the Lobos win the game on Saturday, they'll have to travel again. Their opponent, should they win in Washington? Either an upstart Michigan State team, or the Notre Dame team that Clark left UNM to work with.
Either way, Coach Fishbein, cognizant of having been here before, says he would love to continue playing at home, but the team is ready to take the battle up to Washington. As one of only three programs in the nation to make three consecutive Sweet Sixteens, the Lobos will look to match or beat their prior best; the last time UNM made it past the Sweet Sixteen, they went all the way to the national championship game, before ultimately falling to Maryland.
The UNM/UW game will be streamed online Saturday, Dec. 7 at 6pm MST and should be shown at various bars around town. The soccer program is making waves yet again as an organization worth the time to support.
On Saturday, the University of New Mexico Lobos started hot. The cherry-and-silver squad scored 21 points in the first quarter, running up 217 yards in the first twelve minutes alone. However, the energy couldn’t be sustained. The Rebels of UNLV came out with almost as much steam, and the Lobos ultimately fell 56-42, scoring consecutively less per quarter in a game that had seemed an almost-certain win at many points early in the evening.
While the Lobo offense hummed in the first quarter, UNLV came right back at UNM in the second quarter. The Lobos registered another 14 points, UNLV another 21, and come halftime, the score was knotted at 35-35. The running game maintained their domination of the offense, especially for the Lobos, who gained another 183 yards. The two teams combined at half for 749 yards, but the tied score wouldn't remain that way for long.
The Rebels started to utilize the passing game and took advantage of a Lobo fumble, holding the previously unfettered running game to a mere 97 more yards in the entire second half. Two consecutive touchdowns by UNLV in the span of a mere three minutes seemed to break the Lobos’ willpower to mount any kind of comeback.
With the loss, the Lobos drop to 1-3 for the year. Coach Bob Davie said, post-game, that the first half was unbelievable but admitted that the end result depended on being able to stop the other team. Lobos' offense has proven their capabilities, especially in the first half of Saturday's action, but the defense of the cherry-and-silver needs to continue to work in order to right UNM's year.
Looking past the sting of the defeat, the night also brought about a school record of three players each rushing for more than 100 yards: Kasey Carrier, Carlos Wiggins and quarterback Cole Gautsche each accomplished the feat.
When the University of New Mexico Lobos took the field for the first regular-season game on Saturday afternoon, things felt fine. The weather was good, the pre-season had gone well and second-year coach Bob Davie was looking to continue down the trail of improvement that he'd begun last year. For the first quarter—and most of the first half—things seemed like they'd stay pleasant. By the end of the game, though, the Lobos offense showed that it could not advance beyond an early spurt, and the defense proved porous the entire game long. The Lobos fell to the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners, 21-13.
The game started on a positive note, as SaQwan Edwards returned a fumble for a touchdown. Coach Davie, showing confidence in his team, went for two, but missed the conversion. A disappointment for the Cherry and Silver home crowd, certainly, but never a bad move at home, in the first game, after such an early touchdown. The first quarter ended with UNM up 6-0 and the second quarter proved more of the same; the Lobos scored quickly again on a perfect pass from second-year quarterback Cole Gautsche to a wide-open Marquis Bundy. UNM took the easy kick this time, and sat pretty on a 13-0 lead.
However, the Roadrunners began their comeback at the end of the second quarter, and the Lobos never scored again. The Lobos lost the game on every conceivable benchmark, possessing the ball for just under five minutes less than the Roadrunners, while throwing and running for fewer yards as well. As impressive as the game began, the Edwards touchdown came off the only turnover in the game. With the Roadrunners playing a protective game, UNM wasn't aggressive enough to cause any other opportunities. While Gautsche provided an impressive running game, tallying 118 yards, he only completed four of 12 passes, for 65 yards. In stark contrast UTSA's quarterback, Eric Soza, threw for 237 yards, completing 21 of 34 attempts. The Roadrunners ran for another 157, dominating a Lobos defense that seemed lost at times.
The Lobos have come a long way from going win-less through entire seasons, or winning a mere one game per. But the home opener proves that they still have a long way to go. Their next two games are at UTEP on September 7 and then at Pittsburgh on September 14, before getting a bye week and finally coming home. When the Lobos return to University Stadium, it will face a UNLV team that lost their first game as well (against the Minnesota Golden Gophers) and will have had three games in between. The game will be played on Saturday, September 28 at 6 MST.
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Craig "Noodles" Neal cuts down the net for the 2013 MWC Conference champions
It's official. Previously-titled UNM men's basketball assistant coach Craig "Noodles" Neal will take the reigns as the program's head coach heading into the 2013-2014 season. Neal quickly became a favorite for the position following Steve Alford's sudden departure from the position as he accepted the title of head coach for the UCLA Bruins.
The University of New Mexico Lobos basketball team has continued to climb in the national rankings, rising to number 12 this week in the AP top 25. With only two games left in their regular season, now is the right time for the Lobos to be making that climb. On Wednesday, UNM plays at Nevada. While no team should ever be overlooked, nor any game looked past, the Wolf Pack currently sit in the basement of the Mountain West Conference rankings and have only won 12 games all season. If the Lobos can get past Nevada, the Air Force Falcons wait in Colorado Springs on Saturday night for the conference finale. If both of those games fall in the W category, things will look pretty good come Monday, when the next rankings are released, and it would be reasonable to expect a little bump before the MWC Tournament begins in Las Vegas on March 12.
The focus in the team's locker room, of course, will remain solidly committed to the sports cliché of “one game at a time” and never looking past any opponent. But that's not something that we have to pretend to indulge in, so let’s let the speculation run rampant! If UNM does what they should and wins out in Nevada and Colorado Springs, they'll have a clear path to a 1 seed in the MWC Tournament—not to mention the early rumblings of their deserving a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If they can manage to run the gamut of the MWC, they'll earn the automatic berth into the Big Dance, and Selection Sunday will be an interesting day to say the least.
Of course, nothing is automatic. Nothing is promised or guaranteed. But, if the standings stay as they are, UNM will play either Nevada or Fresno State on March 13, followed by either San Diego State or Boise State on March 14. The path to the MWC Championship Game and the automatic berth looks possible. More appealing than the auto-entry to the tournament, though, is the prospect of reeling off all those wins in a row and entering March Madness with all that momentum on the side of the Cherry and Silver. While there will always be anonymous commentators who dismiss any non-major conference team's placement in the national rankings (don't even think about reading the comments on Gonzaga's recent ascent to number one if you want to retain faith in your fellow humans), the numbers are pretty solid on the side of the Lobos in this case. With an RPI of 2 right now, and a strength of schedule of 3, the data-driven amongst the selection committee have to be looking very hard at UNM.
College basketball is a game of runs and momentum. UNM taking care of business in its non-conference schedule was the first step. The Lobos are now close to finished with taking care of business during the in-conference schedule. Next up, the MWC conference tournament. After that, who knows how far these boys could go? With the right momentum, match-ups and seeding, it could be an unprecedented time.
With the Lobos' victory over the Valparaiso Cruisaders last weekend, they improved to 10-0, their best start since going 12-0 back in 2009. Fans are extremely happy because there is a high chance that they can at least match that opening record this season.
This Lobo team is just as deep as last year's and possibly even deeper. Alex Kirk sat last season out due to an injury, but has started this season off with some exciting play that has helped earn the Lobos the number 17 spot in the Associated Press top 25.
"They are being mentally challenged right now," head coach Steve Alford said in the post-USC victory radio interview in reference to the final exams that the players were focusing on. But he admitted that they would also be physically challenged in attempt to keep their undefeated record alive. Challenging the players during finals week paid off with another victory, and we'll just have to wait and see how it affected them academically.
The next three games that the Lobos play are games against unranked opponents that should add more victories to their impressive resume. In fact, the next game that should pose any challenge will be when they face the 11th ranked Cincinnati Bearcats on the road. Starting with this game on the Dec 27th, the Lobo's schedulewill increase in difficulty as they move into conference play soon afterwards.
This year, the Mountain West Conference is arguably the most competitive it has ever been. While the Lobos are definitely one of the best teams in the conference, there are several teams that would like to take the conference championship away from them this year.
San Diego State is currently rankedjust below the Lobos in the AP top 25. This makes sense considering last year the Lobos were able to win two out of three matches against the Aztecs. There are also the UNLV Runnin' Rebels and the Wyoming Cowboys who are going to give the Lobos tough matches. While Wyoming is not currently ranked, there is a good chance that they will be because they are receiving votes in both the AP top 25 and the USA Today Coaches polls and have also started out with a perfect 10-0.
With high expectations this year, the Lobos are going to have to practice hard and show some true resilience as they face the stiff competition of conference play.