When Lobos face Aggies, it’s not ‘business as usual’
Talk about your splashy series debut.
In 1917, in his first season as head football coach at the New Mexico College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, George G. Griffin coached his team to a 110-3 (no typo) victory over the University of New Mexico.
Top that, Jerry Kill, we dare you.
Saturday evening at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces, Kill’s first team at New Mexico State (so renamed in 1960) will host third-year coach Danny Gonzales’ Lobos in the 112th meeting between the intrastate rivals.
New Mexico (2-4) was listed as a 6½-point favorite over the Aggies (1-5) as of Friday afternoon.
Gonzales, an Albuquerque native and a former UNM player, has made it no secret how he feels about New Mexico State since he took the job in December 2019. Exercising restraint at UNM’s Tuesday media luncheon, he said of Saturday’s game, “Obviously it’s a big game because of who we’re playing. It’s a big deal around here in every sport.
“… It’s a big deal for them, it’s a big deal for us. Everybody knows my true feelings about it.”
Kill, though, also knows a little something about rivalry. He was the head coach for five years (2011-15) at Minnesota, which plays Michigan each fall for possession of the Little Brown Jug. He came to Las Cruces after a stint as an assistant at TCU, which plays bitter Metroplex rival SMU for the Iron Skillet.
Regarding the Lobo-Aggie rivalry, Kill gets it. Saturday’s game is “damn important and the kids understand that,” he told the Las Cruces Sun-News.
“To me it’s like a big bowl game and you are playing for something, playing for pride and Las Cruces.”
Lobo quarterback Miles Kendrick is a transfer from Kansas and became painfully familiar with the Jayhawks’ intrastate rivalry against Kansas State – having broken his leg in the 2021 game against the Wildcats, marking his final appearance in a Kansas uniform.
“It’s definitely not business as usual,” Kendrick said of Saturday’s game. “We understand the rivalry and how important it is to not only this team and this program but to the whole state and to the university.
“Every day we prepare, we’re thinking about the game this weekend and how big it will be and how important it will be, not only to (the players) but to our school as well.”
Sophomore linebacker Dion Hunter is taking a more analytical approach.
“It’s a big rivalry within the state, but we’re just gonna go out there and play our game the way we now how to,” he said.
“We’re not gonna let the emotions get to us. We’re just gonna go out there and dominate. That’s the key for us.”
On Sunday, after back-to-back losses to UNLV and Wyoming in which the Lobos scored just three points in the second half – and failed to score at all in a loss at LSU the week before – Gonzales fired offensive coordinator Derek Warehime.
Quarterbacks coach Heath Ridenour, the highly successful former Cleveland High School coach who’s in his first season in the college ranks, was named interim offensive coordinator.
“I thought there were times that we didn’t give (the offense) a chance to be successful, and I thought it was starting to show on the sideline,” Gonzales said. “The big challenge this week is having better answers.”
After a brutal early schedule that included travel for payday games at Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Aggies had last weekend off while the Lobos were blowing a 14-0 lead in an eventual 27-14 loss to Wyoming. Advantage Aggies?
“The biggest thing (the bye week) did was get our legs back,” Kill told the Sun-News. “We are practicing three times faster than we have, and I think it’s the six games that we have been through.”
As for the aforementioned George G. Griffin, his 110-3 rout of the Lobos in 1917 was his first and last victory in the rivalry. The Aggies had a new coach when the series resumed post-World War I.
As for Kill, he no doubt would settle for a victory by a single point.
HOW TO WATCH: Saturday’s game (6:07 p.m. kickoff, 770 AM/96.3 FM) will be televised by AggieVision on Comcast channel 77 and is available on Bally Sports Arizona (tape delay).
The game will be streamed on FloSports and the Bally Sports app.