New Mexico St New Mexico Football

New Mexico quarterback Tevaka Tuioti (8) throws during the second half of an NCAA college football game against New Mexico State on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019 in Albuquerque, N.M. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton)

This week’s opponent blog post features the weekly Q&A with an opposing beat writer. Steve Virgen is the assistant sports editor and the New Mexico football beat writer for the Albuquerque Journal. He was kind enough to stop by and answer five questions at New Mexico. For his coverage of the Lobos, follow him on Twitter @SteveVirgen.

Now onto the Q&A:

N&A: Bob Davie’s return to the sideline comes this weekend after suffering a heath scare in the Aug. 31 opener against Sam Houston State. What impact will his return have on the team?

SV: Davie’s return provides the Lobos with some normalcy and balance. It was a bit odd for the Lobos to be in South Bend to play against Notre Dame without Davie two weeks ago. It was a game that he as a former Irish coach had a big hand in setting up. Still, Davie has been around the team and seen at practices. He was with the team before its game against New Mexico State and gave the Lobos a pre-game speech before their 55-52 win.

Davie sort of leans toward coaching more on defense and special teams this season. The Lobos are hoping his impact will be felt on defense, a unit that assuredly needs improvement.

N&A: Joe Dailey spent seven seasons as Liberty’s quarterbacks coach and the final three as the offensive coordinator. How has he adjusted to calling plays at New Mexico, and is the Lobos offense performing better with him there?

SV: Dailey seemed to have identified UNM playmakers early on during the spring and went about installing his scheme with them in mind. It’s still too early in the season to say if the Lobos are performing better than last season. But they do appear to be more in sync than last year, and just a bit faster with regard to Dailey’s demand to be up-tempo. The players, especially quarterback Tevaka Tuioti, enjoy the pace. It has been challenging but they are better for it.

N&A: Quarterback Tevaka Tuioti suffered a broken clavicle in the teams’ meeting last season. He has recovered and posted gigantic numbers against New Mexico State last weekend. How is the signal caller developed since the Flames faced him last season?

SV: During the offseason, Tuioti added weight/bulked up a bit to help in his quest to remain healthy this season. He had a great spring and gained confidence in his belief to continue to play his style. That means he’s not afraid to run and use his athleticism when needed. He’s on the right path to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West Conference. It’s just a matter of consistency and staying healthy.

N&A: Flames coach Hugh Freeze is worried about facing the New Mexico defense, despite the fact the Lobos rank 128th in the nation in scoring defense allowing 49.7 points per game. What has this defense shown through three games to back up Freeze’s worry?

SV: The Lobos defense has a knack to start strong, but they tend to fade. Early on in games, the Lobos tend to create turnovers. Overall, Freeze need not worry. There are still too many weaknesses on the UNM defense, a unit that is attempting to improve with several new and inexperienced players.

N&A: What do you feel the Lobos need to do well in order to pick up their first road victory of the season?

SV: They need to execute big plays. Even though they missed on a few big plays last week against New Mexico State, the Lobos did make more plays than their rivals, especially in the fourth quarter. Last year, they struggled with coming up with a big play late in games.

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Damien Sordelett covers Liberty University athletics and local golf for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5550.

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