Stevens: Can Lobos Tweak up Some Déjà vu In Las Vegas?

Oct. 29, 2012

New Mexico Lobos Football - Mountain West Action - At UNLV

When/Where: 2 p.m. (MT), Saturday - Las Vegas, Nevada
On The Air: 770-AM KKOB, Lobo Radio Network; Comcast 77 GameTracker, Game Story, Full Box Score

By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/

Déjà vu?

The University of New Mexico Lobos might hope so.

Present Day: The University of New Mexico Lobos, coming off back-to-back losses, might be without their top two quarterbacks -- B.R. Holbrook and Cole Gautsche -- heading to Las Vegas to play the UNLV Rebels.

Flashback to 2002: The New Mexico Lobos, coming off back-to-back losses, were heading into Las Vegas to play the UNLV Rebels. These Lobos were without their top two quarterbacks as Casey Kelly was lost three days before the game to an ankle injury and freshman backup Kole McKamey was sitting out via suspension.

Those 2002 Lobos looked to be in about as much trouble as a blackjack player, who flunked arithmetic.

The answer was a long shot, a gamble, a Band Aid. The solution might have come out of a prayer meeting rather than a coaches' meeting.

UNM decided to go with Justin Millea, a former walk-on quarterback out of Silver City, N.M., who had been seeing more action as a defensive back and a special teams' player.

The last time Millea took a snap as a starting quarterback for a school came in 1997 at Silver High. Yeah, he was a bit rusty.

He was placed behind the Lobo center three days prior to the game and - more or less - was running out of a wildcat formation.

Sure, he was technically a quarterback, but Millea wasn't supposed to take to the Vegas turf and do a Peyton Manning imitation. He was supposed to run this way, run that way, get the ball to DonTrell Moore, and try to maintain drives and possessions.

Keep it simple. Hope for the best.

Millea kept it simple, but in a big way. He turned in one of the more dramatic quarterback debuts in Lobo history rushing for 148 yards including a 73-yard scoring burst.

He also led the Lobos on a 90-yard scoring drive. He ran for 54 yards in that drive and tossed a 10-yard screen pass to Moore to convert a third-and-eight.

It was rumored that head coach Rocky Long shut his eyes when Millea went to the air, which Millea did eight times completing two passes to Lobos and one pass to a Rebel.

Millea's run total at that point was the most by a Lobo quarterback in 29 years, since Don Woods had 149 yards in Oct of 1973 vs. Arizona.

And the Millea-led Lobos won: 25-16.

The Lobos would take that score this coming Saturday in Las Vegas. They also would take that run total for whoever is leading the huddle at UNLV.

For sure, it won't be Holbrook, who is out for at least three weeks, maybe the season, with a separated shoulder. It might be Gautsche, who left the Fresno State game in the first quarter with a neck injury and also missed the Air Force game with a concussion.

Gautchse, a tough kid, is day to day. He might play against the Rebels. If not, the 2012 Lobos might be throwing out their third, fourth and fifth options against UNLV: sophomore Quinton McCown, halfback Kasey Carrier, or receiver Lamaar Thomas.

That combination did OK in moving the ball two weeks back against Air Force when Holbrook and Gautsche were on the sidelines. UNM rushed for 155 yards in the second half.

They didn't do so good in the second half of UNM's 49-32 loss to Fresno State this past Saturday. The Lobos had ten yards and no first downs in the third quarter. They moved the ball late when the Bulldogs were coasting on a 49-25 lead.

The UNLV game is a big one for the Lobos because the playing field again moves from a slant favoring the opponent to more level ground. The Rebels are 1-8, struggling and desperate for a win. If Holbrook and Gautsche were healthy, the Lobos probably would be solid favorites even on Vegas turf.

Now, so much of the game depends on what UNM can do out of its option and what UNLV will do on defense against a Lobo team usually hesitate to hit the airways.

However, if Gautsche doesn't come back, the Lobos have a few days to adjust McCown to a starting role and have time to tweak the Wildcat formation with Thomas or Carrier taking the snap.

Or, the Lobos might come up with something else - or maybe somebody else.

One thing about the 2012 season is that it has placed a high demand on tweaking and the Lobo coaching staff has excelled in tweaking.

In Vegas, maybe they can tweak up some déjà vu.