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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Analysis: ‘We got what we deserved’


    ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – With his head sunken onto his chest, still wearing all his equipment, UA senior Nate Ness slowly shuffled away from the field and down the 200-yard path leading to the visitor’s locker room.

    Offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes emerged from the doorway, his hand darting through his hair, muttering in frustration.

    UA defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, eyes making contact with no one in particular, addressed the media with a blank expression, almost at a loss for words.

    UA head coach Mike Stoops spoke up.

    “”They outplayed us, they out-coached us. That’s why they won the game. It’s pretty simple,”” Mike Stoops said. “”We just weren’t good enough tonight.””

    After steamrolling its first two opponents, the Arizona football team was brought back to earth as a result of the 36-28 loss handed down by New Mexico. The Wildcats committed five turnovers, but the Lobos’ 19 points off the freebies proved to be too much for Arizona to overcome.

    “”We didn’t execute. We didn’t play like we’ve been playing the first two games,”” said UA junior safety Cam Nelson. “”We got what we deserved. We got a loss.””

    The offense started off with promise as it scored on its first possession, but rhythm was hard to come by for the rest of the game. After forcing the Lobos’ lone turnover of the game midway through the first quarter, UA quarterback Willie Tuitama gave the ball right back on a poorly executed screen play.

    He telegraphed his pass, and defensive lineman Brett Kennedy – who isn’t even listed on the Lobos’ depth chart – picked it off and returned it inside Arizona’s 20-yard line. It was Kennedy’s first play ever in a Lobo uniform.

    Tuitama seemed rattled after the miscue, despite New Mexico only tallying a field goal from the mistake, and then began to hold onto the ball too long waiting for routes to develop. That proved to be a mistake as Tuitama fumbled twice – Arizona losing both of them – and each time led to Lobo points. He finished the game 27-for-50 for 321 yards and three scores, but the four turnovers were too costly.

    “”(Tuitama) just got out of kilter,”” Stoops said. “”Against (the Lobos), they can do that a little bit, but we were just off.””

    Tuitama wasn’t the only one turning the ball over, either. Formerly unstoppable running back Nic Grigsby was held in check by the Lobo defense as he only gained 72 yards on 18 carries.

    He also made perhaps the biggest mistake of the game. On Arizona’s first offensive play of the second half, Grigsby lunged for more yards but the ball was knocked free by UNM’s Clint McPeek. Lobo running back Rodney Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
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    rguson scored from 10 yards out on the very next play, making the score 27-14.

    “”That hurt us. In the locker room we planned for the offense to go out and score off the bat and we’ll come back and get a three-and-out,”” Nelson said. “”But it’s football. It’s a game of turnovers and big plays and they made more big plays than us in the end.””

    The defense, although again stout in goal line situations, didn’t hold up its end of the bargain either. While the unit might have held New Mexico’s already struggling passing game to 114 yards, it was gashed for 221 on the ground. It also fell victim to a 25-yard halfback pass back from Ferguson to Lobo quarterback Donovan Porterie to put New Mexico on top 10-7.

    It was the Lobos’ first lead of the season and the Wildcats’ first deficit, and Arizona just couldn’t recover.

    “”We really didn’t play well on defense,”” Mark Stoops said. “”We were just a little bit on our heels and just not physical enough at times up front.””

    The Lobos’ cleverly disguised their defensive coverages, blitzed from multiple looks and contained Arizona’s offense for the better part of the night. New Mexico sacked Tuitama three times, broke up seven passes and had six tackles for loss of yardage.

    On offense, the Lobos supplied a heavy dose of Ferguson – 26 carries for 158 yards and two scores – and passed the ball well enough to gain key first downs, twice converting on third-down screen plays.

    Senior wideout Mike Thomas was one of the only bright spots for Arizona on the night. He hauled in 12 catches, mostly on shorter routes when Arizona wasn’t desperately trying to get back into the game, for 136 yards and one touchdown.

    Sophomore receiver Delashaun Dean had six catches for 106 yards and one score, but both Thomas and Dean dropped balls at crucial junctures.

    Dean couldn’t reel in two passes down the sideline as he dove to get them but they both fell through his hands. Thomas recorded a drop on the Wildcats’ last offensive play, a fourth-and-one from Arizona’s 47-yard line.

    “”Any loss hurts,”” Mark Stoops said. “”We, by no means, thought that we had arrived (after the first two wins). We know we have to play our butts off to win. We’ve got to show more maturity and we’ve got play better on the road, and that’s the bottom line.””

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