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New Mexico Lobos generate national buzz for all wrong reasons

New Mexico football isn’t usually a topic on a national radio show, but ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt made it one Tuesday.

He said he couldn’t think of a more disastrous coaching hire than the one the Lobos made after the 2008 season when they hired Mike Locksley.

It was such a bad hire, the only surprise was that Sunday’s firing wasn’t sooner.

Locksley’s record, 2-26 over 2 1/3 seasons, was enough for New Mexico athletic director Paul Krebs to reach that decision following Saturday’s embarrassing 48-45 home loss to Sam Houston State.

But there have been many off-field reasons as well, including an altercation between Locksley and an assistant coach in 2009. New Mexico suspended Locksley for 10 days, but didn’t fire him, even though there were plenty of signs his tenure wouldn’t end well.

Because Krebs didn’t make the difficult choice then, he cost New Mexico more than $1 million in salary and buyout compensation, though the AD negotiated the figure down by about half a million dollars before this season.

In the meantime, the Lobos will try to move forward, and hosting rival New Mexico State on Saturday could help them put aside the enormous distractions they face — at least temporarily.

"The kids are pretty resilient," New Mexico interim coach George Barlow said. "In the beginning, they may not necessarily understand, but winning is a big cure for a lot of things. I think if we can win the game this week and then have a bye week, I think we’ve got a chance to get them refocused and see what they can do down the road."

AROUND THE MWC

San Diego State coach Rocky Long made his players off limits to the media following the Aztecs’ 28-7 loss at Michigan on Saturday. He said the players were emotional after going against their former coach, Brady Hoke, who now leads the Wolverines. Long said he thought the players might say some things they would regret. "Some people think they’re pro athletes," Long said. "I don’t think they’re pro athletes. They’re college athletes with a lot on their minds. My job is to protect them." …

Boise State emptied its bench after racing to a 34-0 lead over Tulsa before winning, 41-21. The coaches’ poll dropped the Broncos a spot to No. 5 and elevated Stanford, which apparently had a very good week of practice during its bye. "It doesn’t bother me in the slightest," Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. Maybe it should, because that poll is one element in deciding which teams play for the BCS national championship. … UNLV coach Bobby Hauck said no major changes are in order after his team’s jaw-dropping 41-16 loss to Southern Utah.

RANKING THE TEAMS

1. No. 4 Boise State (3-0) vs. UNR (1-2). A rematch of last season’s epic game, a 34-31 overtime victory by UNR that handed Boise State its only loss.

2. No. 20 Texas Christian (3-1) vs. Southern Methodist (3-1). The Horned Frogs have four consecutive 200-yard rushing games and have eclipsed that mark in six of the past seven games.

3. Air Force (2-1) at Navy (2-1). The Falcons totaled a school-record 792 yards against Tennessee State, including 595 rushing.

4. San Diego State (3-1), off. Defensive back Larry Parker has forced five turnovers in the past two games.

5. Wyoming (3-1), off. Running back Alvester Alexander’s seven-game streak of at least one rushing touchdown ended.

6. Colorado State (3-1) vs. San Jose State (1-3). The Rams lead the country with 16 sacks.

7. UNLV (1-3), off. The Rebels lead the Mountain West in rushing defense, allowing 116 yards per game.

8. New Mexico (0-4) vs. New Mexico State (1-3). Barlow is retaining defensive coordinator responsibilities in addition to being the interim coach.

GAME OF THE WEEK

Boise State vs. UNR. The Broncos will be out for revenge after UNR ended their hopes for the national title in one of last season’s most riveting games.

TRENDING

Mountain West defenses need to improve if the conference is going to make much of an impact nationally. Colorado State is 31st in total defense, and Boise State is tied for 31st in scoring defense. Both schools lead the conference in those respective categories.

ON THE HORIZON

The Mountain West made the unusual move to two open weeks, so that the season could extend into December, and how a school handles the double byes could help determine its fortunes. Three teams, including UNLV, are off this week.

 

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