ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — While New Mexico was piling up a 3-33 record over the past three seasons, coughing up the ball was one of its many issues.
But in Saturday’s debut under new Lobos coach and former ESPN sportscaster Bob Davie, UNM had an about-face against Southern, creating turnovers on three consecutive second-quarter possessions and turning them all into touchdowns.
That helped New Mexico roll to a 66-21 victory over the Jaguars in Davie’s first game in more than a decade.
“The first half of football, our whole goal was no self-inflicted mistakes,” Davie said. “That’s a pretty good first half of football. I don’t care who you’re playing. Because the first game of the year, you’re really playing yourself.”
When the first half was over, the Lobos had a 45-6 lead and had totaled more points than it had in its final seven games last season.
Davie was called upon at New Mexico to resurrect what had devolved into one of the worst programs in the country, so getting that rebuilding project started with a victory was strong first step, he said.
“They gave me a game ball and I appreciate it,” he said with a smile. “It’s a great way to start. It really is.”
New Mexico held just a 7-0 advantage at the end of the first quarter, but after the Lobos completed an eight-play, 65-yard scoring drive, the defense turned in big play after big play.
Jaguars quarterback Dray Joseph fumbled as he was sacked and Lobos linebacker Joseph Harris scooped up the ball and trotted 10 yards for the score.
“It felt really, really special,” Harris said of the play. “My tackle Ugo (Uzodinma), he ran up field and I came underneath. He got a sackle, a sack and a forced fumble.
“I was fortunate enough to be in the right position to be able to scoop it and run. I haven’t scored a touchdown in a game since 2007 in high school, so it felt really good. I was very happy.”
Just walking off the field with a win also was a special, said the fifth-year senior.
“It’s been a very long time,” he said. “I’ve been here five years, and it’s never happened to me. So to finally say, ‘Hey, we won our first game and we’re 1-0,’ it makes you feel like you’ve done your job.
“All the hard work you’ve done over the spring and the summer and in the winter time, it paid off and we finally walked off the field and we’re 1-0.”
The win broke a six-season losing streak in openers for New Mexico. The strong second quarter got the Lobos steamrolling to the win.
On Southern’s ensuing possession, A.J. Butler recovered a fumble by receiver Michael Berry after a 10-yard gain. Three plays later, New Mexico was back in the end zone.
Lobos linebacker Joe Stoner then stepped in front of a Joseph pass on the Jaguars’ next possession for another interception. New Mexico needed four plays to once again get into the end zone.
“Half the teams in the country right now are 0-1,” Davie said. “There are 120-some teams; we’re one of those teams that are 1-0. Southern had a tough week, but I don’t take any win for granted, particularly with where we are right now in this program and what these guys have been through. So it’s good to see them smile, feel good about themselves and know that they can better.”