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Lobo Football hopes last chance counts

UNM receiver Trae Hall (right) scores a touchdown during last season’s game against the Air Force at University Stadium. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

Before the University of New Mexico football program enters an offseason that promises significant changes, there remains a valuable opportunity to hit two losing streaks.

The Lobos will take the field Friday in Fort Collins, Colo. after losing nine straight games in 2022 and 11 straight to Friday’s opponent the Colorado State Rams.

But on those two numbers, says UNM wide receiver Trae Hall, who cares?

“We’re going from game to game,” Hall said after UNM practice on Monday. “It doesn’t matter the past. We are in the present and not worried about the past at all.

“We’re talking about this game, what’s going on (right now) and we’re trying to get that ‘W’ and end the season right.”

Without question, a win Friday at CSU’s Canvas Stadium could be something of a springboard into this offseason of change.

What will change? The identity of the head coach does not. New Mexico athletic director Eddie Nuñez has expressed his full support for third-year coach Danny Gonzales, recognizing the obstacles Gonzales faced in posting a 7-23 record, which neither coach nor AD nor a dwindling fan base satisfied.

However, changes in the UNM coaching staff cannot be ruled out. Gonzales has previously said he will hire an offensive coordinator to replace Derek Warehime, who Gonzales fired on Oct. 9. It doesn’t appear that quarterbacks coach Heath Ridenour, who has served as interim O coordinator since Warehime was fired, is a candidate.

“Obviously every year you evaluate your employees,” Gonzales said after Wednesday’s practice session. “…When I was a coordinator (at the states of San Diego and Arizona), I had the opportunity to work with people I like, and I think that’s important.

“So as we go through the process of hiring an offensive coordinator, there are some decisions being made that help determine what’s best for our program.”

However, the biggest and most revealing changes concern the players. In the age of transfer portal, one-time transfer rule and name, image and licensing, squad change is inevitable.

Among the remaining UNM players, who will stay, who will go and who can Gonzales and his staff recruit to fill out the roster?

During KKOB-AM Radio’s “Lobo Talk” on Nov. 16, Gonzales said the NCAA implemented a dead time for the transfer portal Monday through Monday (Nov. 28 – Dec. 5).

“Some of the kids that go into the portal, they go in because they want to do something different,” Gonzales said, “and some of them are told, ‘You’re probably not going to play here, so if you’re going to play, then you have to go somewhere find (different).’

“…We meet with all of our children (during dead time). I’m sure there will be some surprises on both sides.”

As for Friday’s game, the listed betting over/under of 35 points seems a little optimistic as the Lobos (2-9, 0-7 Mountain West) and Rams (2-9, 2-5) averaged together from just 27.1 points per game. New Mexico ranks 129th nationally for felonies, with CSU 131st and last.

Colorado State is listed as a 7½-point favorite, possibly based largely on having home field. The Rams’ two Mountain West wins came against Nevada and Hawaii, teams the Lobos didn’t get a chance to play for.

But then there’s this strip. The Lobos last defeated Colorado State 29-27 in 2009, when Mike Locksley was UNM’s freshman-year coach. Some of the following 11 games were blowouts, others were close – but always ended in victories for green and gold.

As for the cherry and the silver, let’s give Hall both the last word and the first word.

“We don’t care how many games we’ve lost to this team or how many games we’ve lost this season,” said the fifth-year senior wide receiver.

“We’re going to tackle this game and strive for a win.”

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