Nov. 17—Danny Gonzales has said it time and time again: New Mexico's margin for error in games this season is been about as thin as it gets.
"And we lost," UNM's head coach said on Tuesday, referencing last Saturday's 42-14 loss to Boise State.
Now, with their bowl chances essentially nixed, the Lobos (3-7, 1-5) will take a trip to Fresno State (8-2, 4-2) for their penultimate game of the year. Three things to watch for as UNM vies to break a three-game losing streak:
Who plays more at quarterback?
On Tuesday, Gonzales said quarterback Dylan Hopkins would start after missing last week's loss to Boise State due to strep throat. True freshman Devon Dampier, however, will continue to get more reps after filling in for Hopkins against the Broncos.
So, for the first time this season, UNM is planning on a true two-quarterback approach. And as Gonzales and offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent said, whoever's playing the best gets to finish the game out.
But what will the line changes look like? Vincent indicated it would simply be based off the "flow of the game," going off feel and what the defense gives them instead of putting both players on a "pitch count" of sorts.
"It could even be where you look up and Devon starts a drive," Vincent said, "instead of coming in a certain play, or a couple plays here and whatnot. Because I think he gives us the opportunity to move the ball and do some special things."
An expected question: If both Hopkins and Dampier end up splitting playing time, is there a concern neither will be able to find a rhythm?
Vincent said the results will speak for themselves.
"At the end of the day, it's all based off execution," he said. "If you don't execute well, the common thought is, 'well, we never really let 'em get in a rhythm' and all that it is a deflection. And it's an excuse. They're both good at what we do, they're good at what is in the game plan for both of them. You just gotta go out there and execute each play, one at a time."
Can the defense hold on?
The last three games have been anything but kind to UNM's defense. In losses to Nevada, UNLV and Boise State, the Lobos have given up season-highs in scoring to all three teams on a marked decline toward becoming one of the worst defenses in the country. The issues have been compounded by a slew of injuries at key spots, leaving the door open for more mistakes and the old feeling that UNM is beating themselves more often than not.
"In the games that we lost, we really been shooting ourselves in the foot for the most part," cornerback Donte Martin said this week. "It's always like, one mental mistake that could happen during a play that's gonna get somebody a touchdown. And that's what happens all the time on the field."
Nose tackle Tyler Kiehne echoed Martin.
"We do a lot of it to ourselves," he added. "I would say (we) just need to correct our mistakes, control what we can control and do our job to the best of our ability."
Fresno State will make it a challenge. Averaging 290.4 passing yards per game, quarterbacks Mikey Keene and Logan Fife have consistently taken the top off opposing defenses with wide receivers Erik Brooks, Mac Dalena and Jalen Moss hauling in a combined 13 receiving touchdowns.
Will UNM be next?
Records on the line
There are still two players in contention to tie or break school records with two games remaining.
After breaking up a pass against Boise State, Martin moved his season pass breakup total to five. His career total is up to 30 — just one away from tying former All-Mountain West and Pro-Bowl safety Glover Quin's long standing program record.
The other record in play is more of a longshot: Jacory Croskey-Merritt has 14 rushing TDs on the year, which puts him in contention to tie or break former Lobo DonTrell Moore's single season record of 19 in 2003.