Lobo loss leads to new leadership

By Izabella Kubiak/ NM News Port

On Nov. 24, the New Mexico Lobos hosted the Utah State Aggies at home and lost their final game. The men’s football team may have missed any bowl contention this season, but they now look forward to a future with Bronco Mendenhall as their new head coach, replacing Danny Gonzales.

The loss wrapped up the Lobo’s season with a record of four wins, eight losses (2-6 in conference play), and ranked second to last in the Mountain West conference. 

Lobos McClour diving for an attempted touchdown on Nov. 24 against Utah State photo by Tim March

Some fans were disappointed with the Lobos final game but admired their fight to the very end. 

“Watching them lose in double overtime to Utah was frustrating, but made me realize that we got to double overtime against another Mountain West school,” said Simon Roybal, a UNM student.

“I think the win from Utah would’ve been huge, you know? That’s where Jordan Love, the Packers quarterback, played,” Roybal said. “But we have a lot of growing to do, and hopefully, new leadership will bring more wins for the Lobos.”

The final score of Friday’s game was 44-41, with Utah’s quarterback Levi Williams scoring the final winning touchdown of the game in double overtime. Fans were bundled in cherry and silver amidst the cold winds and celebrated Lobo seniors playing their final game with UNM. 

In the post-game media conference, UNM’s running back Jacory Croskey-Merritt spoke about continuing his athletic career with the Lobos.

Croskey-Merrit running the ball on Nov.24 against Utah State photo by Communications photographer Tim March

“I love this program, I just want to give it all I got. I’m happy to be a Lobo and to keep fighting,” Croskey-Merritt said.

Fans are also excited to support the Lobos in their next season despite Friday’s loss and hope new leadership brings more competitive games. 

“I’m not from New Mexico but when I moved to Albuquerque, I started watching the Lobos play, and it would be fun if they could play at this level all the time,” MiaKoda Trenbeth, a CNM student, said.

The day after the Lobo’s last game, on Nov. 25, a press release was published by the director of sports communications about Eddie Nunez’s, the Director of Lobo Athletics, decision to hire a new head coach for the Lobos.

“After careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that our football program needs new leadership,” Nunez said.

Although Danny Gonzales, the ex-head coach, had served the Lobos for nearly five years, Nunez felt the decision for a new head coach was right.

“While I’m disappointed, I will always appreciate and be grateful for the opportunity to return to The University of New Mexico and lead the football program as the head coach,” Gonzales said in a press release. “I’m proud of the program we built and will always cheer on my alma mater in the future,”

Nearly two weeks later on Dec. 6, It was announced in a similar press release that Bronco Mendenhall would be the Lobos head coach rolling into the 2024 season.

Bronco Mendenhall has a history with the Lobos, and served as their defensive coordinator from 1998-2002. Mendenhall finished 11 years with Mountain West rival college BYU and played a role in turning BYU from a losing to a consistent program.

New head coach Bronco Mendenhall as the Lobos defensive coordinator photo from Dec.6 Lobos football press release

“We are excited to welcome Bronco Mendenhall as our new head football coach,” Nuñez said in the Dec. 6 press release. “Throughout this process, we were looking for not just a proven winner, but a leader of men that has a clear vision for what our program can be.”

Players, students, and alumni can anticipate a long off-season for the Lobos to settle into new head coach Mendenhall and staff. The Lobos will play their first game at home on Aug. 24 against Montana State in 2024. 

“After 25 years, Holly and I are excited to be returning to Albuquerque, where we have many fond memories,” Mendenhall said.  “…We are excited to get to know the players, assemble a world-class group of people, immerse ourselves in the community, and truly make a difference at UNM.