That’s what happens when only one team can move the ball.
Afterward, UNM coach Danny Gonzales summed up the afternoon from a Lobo standpoint with these words: “Obviously, we are not even close to being good enough on offense. Or even average.”
Therein lay the problem, or most of it.
The Lobos (2-8, 0-6 Mountain West Conference) entered the game ranked 131st and last in total offense among the nation’s NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision teams. They failed even to reach their previous per-game average of 247 yards against the Falcons, finishing with 172. New Mexico had 10 first downs, ran 46 plays to Air Force’s 72 and controlled the ball for barely 22 of 60 minutes.
It was the fourth game this season in which UNM failed to score a touchdown. The Lobos’ only score came in the third quarter, a 39-yard Luke Drzewiecki field goal.
As for the UNM defense, Air Force (7-3, 3-3) rushed for 428 yards. The Falcons added a bit of New Mexico salt in the wound with a 33-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter from quarterback Haazik Daniels to wide receiver and Volcano Vista graduate David Cormier, who spurned a UNM scholarship offer in favor of the Academy.
It was one of only two Air Force passes on the afternoon.
Early last week, Gonzales said his defense needed to contain Air Force fullback Brad Roberts if the Lobos were to have a chance at victory. Roberts finished with 163 yards on 29 carries.
Daniels rushed for 113 yards on nine carries, more than half his total coming on a 65-yard run for the first of five Air Force touchdowns.
The Falcons’ success on the ground came as no surprise, since they entered the game as the national leader in rushing. Essentially, it was the New Mexico offense’s inability to keep its defense off the field that gave the Lobos zero chance to snap what is now a seven-game losing streak.
The UNM ground game, which produced 216 yards the previous week in a 27-10 loss at Utah State, managed only 45 against Air Force.
“Hats off to them, they’re a great defense,” Lobos quarterback Justin Holaday said. “… Their defensive line (consists of) big guys; they hold their ground and it’s hard to run against them.”
Holaday was 10-of-21 passing for 128 yards and was sacked five times. He said the Air Force defensive scheme took away the rollout, where he’s most comfortable throwing.
Gonzales said the plan going in was to try to throw deep early, preventing the Air Force defense from loading up against the run. That didn’t happen.
“We weren’t able to get them out of there, and they were packing it inside and had more numbers,” he said. “We didn’t get any clean runs (inside).
“Then they had a high rusher that was eliminating Justin from getting outside the pocket.”
Holaday, who’d run effectively against Utah State, rushed 12 times for a net 4 yards on Saturday.
New Mexico’s loss was its 10th in a row at Falcons Stadium, where they last won in 2000.